Greater coordination needed to harvest fruits of ocean economy
South Africa will only begin harvesting the full benefits of a renewed focus on the ocean economy when private and public sector stakeholders start communicating with each other more effectively, says Prof Malek Pourzanjani, the first chief executive officer of the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI).
Established in November 2014 and based in Nelson Mandela Bay, SAIMI is South Africa’s first dedicated national maritime institute, focused on supporting the skills development, education, research and technology development needed to underpin the country’s drive to harness the potential of the oceans economy.
Pourzanjani, who spent much of 2016 criss-crossing South Africa to meet stakeholders in the ocean economy, says he has found there are “plenty of opportunities for job creation across most sectors of the ocean economy, but the different organisations have not been talking to each other”.
He says SAIMI is facilitating the meeting of minds of government, business and academic role-players , as all need to be involved in charting the way forward – integrating the skills and research needs of industry with the programmes provided by the education sector, and government policy to recognise qualifications and create an enabling environment for growth.
“We are developing a roadmap for skills development which is aligned to the needs of the diverse sectors of the ‘maritime economy’. The objective is to train people to fill the jobs that are available – and for the jobs of the future. That is where research comes in. We need to identify trends and opportunities,” he says.
It will take time for the full benefits of maximising the ocean economy to be felt in the country, adds Pourzanjani, who has qualifications in nautical science, maritime technology and a PhD in engineering science.
Most recently he served as president and CEO of the Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology.
Prior to that he was Vice-Chancellor and President of Raffles University Iskandar in Malaysia, President and Principal of the Australian Maritime College and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, as well as r Professor of Maritime Affairs at the World Maritime University in Sweden.
“Our planning is looking ahead 20 to 30 years. It all starts at school level, where we have to get youngsters interested in being part of the maritime economy”.
At present it seems there is very little awareness of the opportunities the sector offers across a wide range of disciplines and fields, he says.