Maritime security a priority, minister says

2012-05-17 20:32

Cape Town - The SA National Defence Force's maritime security strategy will remain a priority for some years to come, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Thursday.

Speaking in the National Assembly during debate on her budget vote, she said South Africa's coastline spanned 3 000km, in three oceans, located on a major strategic shipping route.

Almost 80% of the country's trade volume was by sea.

"We also have extensive offshore interests, namely islands and marine and offshore oil and gas resources," she said.

"Our ports are visited by 12 000 ships per annum, carrying 200 million tons of freight - both imports and exports - and R37bn is spent per annum on maritime transport."

The defence department had recognised this threat against the notion of innocent passage and the freedom of the seas, and its concomitant effect on commercial trade.

It had therefore been instrumental in the development and subsequent ratification of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) maritime security strategy in August last year, by the SADC heads of state.

This was by far the most advanced naval strategy the continent had been involved in.

"So comprehensive is our maritime security strategy that we have been able, within the shortest possible time, to respond to a request by the department of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries (DAFFS) to assist in performing the shipping management functions of the DAFFS fleet of vessels with effect from 1 April 2012.

"The economic spin-offs from our maritime strategy are amazing. They range from preserving the livelihood of our fishermen to lowering the costs of doing business through our ports, to the creation of a ship building industry in our country, to name but a few," Sisulu said.