Move to address skills shortage in maritime sector
South Africa's maritime industry has a skills shortage and the SA Maritime Safety Authority has relieved the situation by introducing a skills development programme.
Executive head of Samsa's Centre for Maritime Excellence Sindiswa Nhlumayo says the programme is all about acquiring skills for learners aspiring to follow a career in the maritime field.
In addition, a dedicated training vessel donated to Samsa by the Department of Environmental Affairs was unveiled last week at the opening of the SA Maritime Industry Conference in Cape Town, with 32 cadets from Cape Town embarking on marine research.
"We are very excited that now we own Africa's first-ever dedicated training vessel," Nhlumayo said at the conference.
Fifteen more cadets will later board the vessel in Durban.
The development of the programme began with a maritime careers awareness programme at the Sci-Bono in Johannesburg in March.
Creating awareness, establishing 10 maritime high schools in the next five years in different provinces, and teacher development to start maritime studies at basic education level, were on the agenda.
Nhlumayo said inland provinces would not be left out and that people needed to realise the value of maritime studies.
KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo are some of the provinces identified for establishing maritime schools and implementing programmes.
The next step was to focus on Further Education and Training colleges. Maritime courses are only offered at private FET colleges which cannot accommodate many students due to lack of funds.
Ten public FET colleges around the country have also been identified to offer maritime courses at affordable rates.
The Durban University of Technology and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) are in the process of upgrading their maritime studies.
Nhlumayo said there were further plans to include other institutions.
Before the skills development programme took off, a cadetship programme had already started in October last year.
It was discovered that of the 1.5-million seafarers in the world only less than 2,400 are South Africans.
Currently Samsa sits with 449 cadets on their waiting list to get an opportunity in the various maritime fields.
Those who succeed will join the 116 cadets who are now in training and at sea.
Lawhill Maritime Centre at Simon's Town High School offers two specialised subjects, namely maritime economics and nautical science for pupils in grades 10, 11 and 12.
Through its bursary scheme Samsa has sponsored 11 pupils to study at Lawhill while four others have been given an opportunity at the CPUT.