President Jacob Zuma updated media on the progress of national government’s plan to grow the ocean’s economy under the auspices of Operation Phakisa. This project intends to boost business in four main segments – the maritime industry, oil and gas, aquaculture and marine protection and governance.

According to Zuma, the project hinges on co-operation between the public and private sectors, as well as civil society and academia.    

“With the inclusion of Prince Edward and Marion Islands in the Southern Ocean, the coastline is approximately 3,900km long. This vast ocean space is relatively unexplored in terms of its economic potential,” said the president.

A 2013 study estimates that the oceans could generate between R129bn – and R177bn to the GDP, and with it about 600,000 jobs.

Oil and gas

Operation Phakisa aims to drill 30 exploration wells in a decade. This would produce 370,000 barrels of oil and gas per day, creating up to 130,000 jobs and contributing US$2,2bn (approximately R28bn) per year, while reducing the country’s dependence on oil and gas imports. This depends on the passing of Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Bill that is currently in parliament.

R9.2bn will be spent to develop Saldanha Bay as an oil and gas hub. Of the 80 rigs that work in the Western Cape oceans, only four are serviced every year, and this new development aims to increase the countries capacity to service this industry, potentially generating R1bn per rig.

Environmental authorisation has been approved for the Burgan Fuel Storage facility in the port of Cape Town. This is an investment of approximately R660m and construction will commence by the end of this month.


Looking at the country’s maritime industry, the president highlighted the 30,000 vessels that pass through SA waters every year, docking in our ports, stating that SA only does maintenance work on 5% of these.

With 300 million tons of cargo and 1,2 million tons of liquid fuel passing along our coasts annually, significant investment in ports and rig repair infrastructure is required.

Zuma said the rehabilitation, upgrade and redevelopment of small harbours, as well as the identification and proclamation of new harbours and their integration with national coastal projects, has begun in order to unlock the economic potential of coastline.

“We have identified Gansbaai, Saldanha Bay, Struisbaai, Gordons Bay and Lamberts Bay for rehabilitation and development,” continued Zuma. A roadmap has also been developed for the proclamation of new harbours in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.


With the aquaculture sector is still in its infancy, the president feels that although its outputs are still relatively low, Operation Phakisa could potentially grow the sector from its current R700m per year contribution to the economy to almost R3bn by 2019.

Although he concedes that there are still massive challenges affecting the sector, including:

  • Funding 
  • Access to markets
  • A lack of infrastructure
  • Limited tenure of leases
  • Difficulties obtaining Environmental Impact Assessment Authorisations

He did however assure the sector that “All of these constraints are being addressed.”

By Jenni McCann 

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