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MARITIME: SAMIC Asks For State Intervention


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THE South Africa Maritime Industry Conference (SAMIC), held earlier this month in Cape Town, brought together a representative grouping of key decision makers along the marine manufacturing value chain to identify and put to action the most optimal solutions for this important industry of the maritime sector.

In South Africa, like many other coastal countries, vessel construction and repairs is one of the oldest industries. However, the South African ship-building industry has progressively gone into decline since the 1990’s when government discontinued subsidising this sector. The lower costs of building ships in foreign shipyards, often brought about by lower wages, less regulation, and the availability of government programs of support and financial aid, make it impossible for South African shipyards to compete with foreign shipyards on a direct basis.

It was pointed out at the conference that as a result South Africa’s shipyards currently focus on the niche small vessels, with local facilities concentrating their efforts on tugs, fishing vessels, patrol and search and rescue vessels and bunker barge-sized vessels. Its future aggressive expansion and sustainability is tied to positive policy intervention and relevant support from government.

In contrast, the boat-building industry has a high degree of international credibility. Numerous reports have shown that the industry has undergone an efficient industrial restructuring that makes it internationally competitive with respect to price, quality (both in finish and sailing abilities) and durability.

Its products are highly acclaimed and have won a number of international awards. It also has a fine reputation among international boat designers, who often allocate orders and refer clients to South African boat builders. Cape Town (and to a lesser extent Kwa-Zulu Natal) is the most important manufacturing base for South African boat builders.

Many challenges and opportunities for improvement have been noted with respect to ensuring that the marine manufacturing industry is globally competitive and responsive to local socio economic demands of South Africa.

South Africa needs to overcome the series of strategic challenges facing the industry and effectively position itself to benefit from the opportunities both in the country as well as those emerging across the broader African continent. These multiple inhibitive factors demand a well-orchestrated and collaborative response from the industry, government and all key relevant stakeholders.

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