Once a major international trade route into the region, South Africa could see itself benefit from any increase in trade, between other BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Nowadays, approximately 98 percent of the country’s internationally bound trade is transported by foreign ships and at least R160 billion a year is paid to foreign shipping services, who predominately operate outside of South Africa. Because of this startling fact, the development of a locally owned commercial shipping fleet is very likely to be a big part of any BRICS initiatives in the future, particularly if they intend to increase trade and encourage co-operation within the union.
Many people are very surprised to learn that at the moment, there are no locally registered merchant ships in the country. AP Moller-Maersk purchased Safmarine in 1999, and the Grindrod shipping fleet is registered in Singapore. Unlike its other BRICS trading partners, which continue to expand their transport fleets, this nation does not have any sort of domestic shipping line; to carry its (more than) 260-million tons of cargo a year. For example, Brazil has a fleet of 172 cargo vessels, Russia has 1,891 vessels, India has 534 and China leads the group with 2,044 merchant ships. Aside from this obstacle, South Africa finds itself well placed geographically to encourage and accommodate trade between BRICS members and for the rest of Africa, as well. This presents valuable opportunities for investors to form strategic partnerships with maritime stakeholders and emerge as pioneers in developing a maritime development agenda for the prospering region, that, aside from building a fleet of shipping vessels; provides investors with a good reason to invest in the Industry and incentive to share their vision for the future.
We want ships that can be built in South Africa by South Africans, in partnership with other people.- Chief of the SA Navy.
South Africa demonstrated to the international community that it has the knowledge, ability and infrastructure to produce world-class vessels, when it built the SAS Drakensberg, the largest naval vessel to be designed and built in Durban (1984). However, repeated complaints from within the industry echo that (at the moment) the country does not have suitably trained personnel to operate commercial vessels (even if they were owned locally) and that local and government finance institutions have expressed that they do not have the desire to finance shipping projects, now or in the future. These challenges have created investment opportunities for the international investors that go beyond just constructing shipping vessels and are likely to include investment into port and harbor improvements, innovative technology, personnel training and even shipping container investments, in the future.