Green Paper on nautical limits to make SA oceanic nation

SA to extend its nautical limits…

South Africa’s claim to resources from the sea bed currently extends some 400 nautical miles but with claims by government now submitted to international authorities, this could well run to 700 nautical miles, adding nearly two million square kilometers to South Africa’s “continental shelf”, making the country a nautical and oceanic resource nation of some consequence.

This fact emerged in Parliament recently on the tabling of a Green Paper on the subject but the warning was added by Adv. “Johnny” de Lange that at the same time South Africa must find the resources, both in skills and finance, to administer a “national data base” of resources, weather, oceanic data such as currents and tides, fishing factors and maritime general information that was available to and contributed to by all sectors of government and industry to manage such an additional load .

More environmental changes

With only four submissions to Parliament emanating from the public, department of water and environmental affairs (DWEA) specialist in monitoring, Ashley Naidoo, briefed the parliamentary committee on water and environmental affairs on the new Green Paper on a future South African policy framework falling under the National Environmental Management Act for the management of ocean sectors.

Primarily motivated by the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the fact that issues like liabilities and the basis for governance of the oceans are still outstanding, DWEA said it has been motivated of late to engage urgently in policy regarding the management of the ocean sector generically, a policy which will be developed shortly and submitted to cabinet as a White Paper.

Other countries

The process, said Naidoo, involves studying the policies of about twelve other countries, such as Norway, Korea, Brazil and Russia which already had frameworks in place whilst including in their deliberations the USA and the United Kingdom who are developing theirs.

Involved also as an ongoing process is a review of sectoral stakeholders, such as mining, fishing and gas exploration; a review of international agreements across all departments that South Africa is subject to; and, finally, shipping policies.

Most important would be the development of a national inter-departmental data base for all to consult with and a regulatory base on which to consider activity applications.  South differed from most nations, Naidoo said, in that 95% of its oceans in the continental area of South Africa were pristine and benefited also from strong currents. South Africa was lucky in this regard, he said.

Fishing, oil, shipping involved

It was noted, Naidoo told parliamentarians, that  whilst each sector, such as the fishing, the oil industry in its many aspects and merchant shipping all had their own conventions and agreements, it was time for SA to develop its own overall policy framework to which all could refer to and fall under.

“Whilst there was a good knowledge base on fishing and on the currents and climate factors, we have very little knowledge on what minerals and where they are located and also pharmaceutical resources”, said Naidoo.

Present situation

The current position, he said, was that South Africa had a line representing a 400 nautical mile ownership on waters adjacent to its coastline; a line which was mapped and fixed. At present, South Africa was negotiating a claim through the relevant international bodies for an 1,800,000 sq kilometers additional ownership over the next five years in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, which would classify South Africa as an “ocean” country of some significance.

Naidoo said that there were some 15,000 ships passing through our waters a year with about 9,000 ships calling at SA ports.   “We have few competitors in the Southern Oceans wanting to gain space, although there are existing zones “owned’ by countries and South Africa will have to learn to live with some of its new oceanic neighbours, such as Norway.

Looking ahead

Naidoo said that with 70% of the globe being covered by water, climatic effects are the major issue affecting the oceanic eco-system at present and consequently there is a need to build on general environmental governance principles in order to handle governance on the high seas.   Provisions had to be made for sea trade; fish and fishing; minerals, pharmaceuticals, sewage and waste disposal.

Also, he said, regulation had to cover environmental issues, climate response, weather matters and the recycling of carbon and nitrogen and heat issues.  Support had to be provided for niche projects on bio-diversity such as mangrove development and delta management and cultural aspects had to be considered. All this would be found in the White Paper.

Naidoo outlined the guiding principles and strategic objectives, Adv. De Lange chairperson the portfolio committee concerned, emphasising that the priority in his view was a national data base across all departments which had to be costed in properly so that Treasury was involved, otherwise regulation of the high seas managed as a national policy would just be a “pipe dream”.

“Government was designing too many policies and not enough working systems and the time has come to deliver”, he said.

Mossel Bay objection

Of the submissions presented orally, notable was the submission from REVAG, an environmental group from Mossel Bay, vehemently objecting to the PetroSA LNG tanker depot and unloading facilities moored offshore within a few hundred metres of the coast at Pinnacle Point, next to Mossel Bay.

REVAG said that they could not wait for such a Bill as envisaged by the Green Paper and called for a moratorium on the PetroSA LNG activities at Mossel Bay and an immediate halting of such operations.

REVAG said that PetroSA’s first application in the form of a land-based EIA to undertake this project was withdrawn in the light of objections initially but it is understood that such an application has now been re-submitted. REVAG said that the projects would be an environmental disaster of major proportions for the area from many aspects.

Adv. De Lange said how surprised he was that only four submissions from the public on the Green Paper had been received by Parliament.
Refer previous articles in this category
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/integrated-energy-plan-iep-is-not-crystal-ball-gazing-says-doe/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/better-year-for-petrosa-with-offshore-gas-potential/

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