September 30, 2019


There is a proven need to strengthen maritime and marine education in South Africa in order to realise the growth potential of the maritime economy. Although various post-school educational institutions offer programmes in marine and maritime fields of study, there is a need for promotion of maritime education, training and research, and facilitation of greater collaboration and co-operation amongst role players in the sector.

The South Africa International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) is South Africa’s apex maritime institute. It was established in 2014 through an effort championed by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in partnership with a broad base of stakeholders from universities, sector education and training authorities, further education and training institutes, the maritime industry, government and representatives from the African maritime sector. The overarching objective of SAIMI is to develop the contribution of the maritime sector to the economy of South Africa and Africa by effectively coordinating quality education, training and research with partner institutions (Stakeholders).

SAIMI’s main task is advocacy and the promotion of South Africa’s maritime sector, the coordination of education, skills, training, research and development, as well as to serve as the knowledge hub on maritime matters. This is premised on a strong collaboration and stakeholder participation framework to ensure that all role players participate in advancing SAIMI’s work and contribute their resources and capabilities towards the development of South Africa’s maritime sector. It is envisaged that SAIMI’s capacity, resources and capabilities would be augmented through a strong network of partners, associates and alliances. 

In this way SAIMI would help unlock the country’s maritime potential and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country by aligning all maritime education, training, research, industry, social and government stakeholders into a comprehensive force for change and jointly implement high impact interventions. To this end, SAIMI leads a partnership and collaborative effort towards better education, training and upskilling of the people, linking them to socio economic opportunities and investing in new knowledge, technologies and innovations for a globally competitive SA maritime sector. 


The South African oceans ecosystem, with its entire marine, maritime, governance and related socio-economic activities, offers opportunities for industry, enterprise, growth, jobs, new knowledge, technology and innovation for South Africans, Africans and the global community. Furthermore, it presents a new frontier for humans to explore for solutions to the enduring existential problems we face, including environmental, food security and a source for more sustainable resources. 

Some key facts pointing the potential for economic growth and job creation in South Africa’s maritime domain: 

*South Africa has a coastline of 3,900km, and its maritime territory (Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)) at 1.5-million km2 is greater than its land mass of 1.2-million km2 – these represent largely untapped economic and natural resources. 

* More than 30,000 vessels pass South Africa’s coastline annually, with 13,000 docking in our ports. 

* 300-million tons of cargo and 1.2-million tons of liquid fuel are transported along the South African coast annually. 

* About 80 oil rigs are estimated to be in range of the Western Cape. 

* SA has potential offshore resources of approx. 9-billion barrels of oil and approx. 60-trillion cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 40 and 375 years of consumption respectively. 

* 20 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were declared in 2018, advancing the protection of South Africa’s rich coastal and ocean biodiversity to 50,000km2 – an increase from 0.4% to 5% of our ocean territory, or approx. 2.5x the size of Kruger National Park. MPAs are important for biodiversity conservation, for allowing fish stocks to replenish, and also for marine tourism. 

* The oceans economy has the potential to contribute up to R177-billion to South Africa’s GDP (vs R54-billion in 2010) and 1-million jobs (vs 316,000 in 2010) by 2033. (Study by Dept of Environmental Affairs.)  

* Operation Phakisa in the Oceans Economy was launched in 2014 to accelerate development of the potential of the oceans economy through detailed planning and targets. By February 2019, through Operation Phakisa initiatives, government had unlocked investments of almost R30-billion and more than 7,000 new jobs in the oceans economy. 

* As a direct outcome of Operation Phakisa, SAIMI is driving the enhancement of SA’s capacity for maritime skills development, education, research and innovation, which is needed to support achievement of the Operation Phakisa plans.  


The South African government in partnership with Civil Society, Industry, Entrepreneurs and Academia led a process of developing a multi-stakeholder socio economic development programme – Operation Phakisa – directed at unlocking the economic potential of the oceans economy. Operation Phakisa is a strategy and methodology adopted by government with the aim of providing energy, focus and impetus to delivering big, fast results in a specific strategic sector linked to South Africa’s National Development Plan. The core aim of this programme was to create new employment opportunities and to enhance the growth and development of South Africa by increasing the ocean economy’s sustainable contribution to GDP.   

To this end, the following sectors have been identified as strategic areas of focus over the period 2014 - 2019 in the medium term and until 2035 over the longer strategic term. Six strategic growth areas, led by national government departments, have been prioritised to contribute to unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans.  

Based on their potential contribution to economic growth and job-creation, these are: 

▪ Marine Transport and Manufacturing, led by the Department of Transport (DoT) and its agencies; 

▪ Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, led by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and its agencies; 

▪ Aquaculture, led by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and its agencies; 

▪ Marine Protection Services and Ocean Governance, led by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and its agencies; 

▪ Small Harbours Development, led by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and its agencies -

▪ The detailed planning for this area commenced in Nov 2018); and 

▪ Coastal and Marine Tourism, led by the Department of Tourism (DEA)(approved in August 2017). 

These six focus areas are supported by cross-cutting strategies in the areas of: 

▪ Skills Development and Capacity Building, led by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and its entities; 

▪ Research, Technology and Innovation, led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and its entities 

The national oceans economy development strategy and programme remains at the core of SAIMI’s strategic agenda and has been adopted as the main theme for the institute over the next 20-year strategic horizon. In this role, SAIMI provides strategic support to the oceans development strategy and programme.