Bill to bring order to marine economy…
November 2017 ParlyReport…..
In the light of President Zuma’s emphasis in his recent speeches on oil and gas issues, it is important to couple this in terms of government policy with the tabling of the section 76 Marine Spatial Planning Bill (MSP Bill). The proposals are targeted at business and industry to establish “a marine spatial planning system” offshore over South African waters.
The Bill also says it is aimed at “facilitating good ocean governance, giving effect to South Africa’s international obligations.”
A briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on their proposals is now awaited in Parliament. The Bill until recently was undergoing controversial hearings in the provinces as is demanded by its section 76 nature.
The MSP Bill applies to activities within South Africa’s territorial waters known as Exclusive Economic Zones, which are mapped out areas with co-ordinates within South Africa’s continental shelf claim and inclusive of all territorial waters extending the Prince Edward Islands.
The Bill flows, government says, from its Operation Phakisa plan to develop South Africa’s sea resources, notably oil and gas. The subject has recently been subject to hearings in SA provinces that have coastal activities. This importantly applies to South African and international marine interests operating from ports in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern and Western Cape but also involves coastal communities and their activities.
Equally as important as maritime governance, is the wish to assist in job creation by letting in work creators. Accounted for also are international oceanic environmental obligations to preserve nature and life supporting conditions which DEA state can in no way can be ignored if maritime operations and industrial seabed development are to be considered.
South Africa is listed as a UNESCO participant, together with a lengthy list of other oceanic countries, agreements which, whilst not demanding total compliance on who does what, are in place to establish a common approach to be respected by oceanic activity, all to be agreed in the 2016/7 year. South Africa is running late.
Whilst the UNESCO discipline covers environmental aspects and commercial exploitation of maritime resources, the MSP Bill now before Parliament states that in acknowledging these international obligations, such must be balanced with the specific needs of communities, many of whom have no voice in an organised sense.
As Operation Phakisa has its sights set on the creation of more jobs from oceanic resources therefore, the MSP Bill becomes a balancing act for the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Bill is attracting considerable interest as a result.
The hearings in the Eastern Cape have already exposed the obvious conundrum that exists between protecting small-time fishing interests and community income in the preservation of fishing waters and development of undersea resources. What has already emerged that the whole question of the creation of future job creation possibilities from seabed-mining, oil and gas exploration and coastal sand mining is not necessarily understood, as has been heard from small communities.
The ever present dwindling supply of fish stocks is not also accepted in many quarters, with fishing quotas accordingly reduced.
Tug of war
All views must be considered nevertheless but from statements made at the political top in Parliament it becomes evident that the potential of developing geological resources far outweigh the needs of a shrinking fishing industry. At the same time, politicians usually wish to consider votes and at parliamentary committee level, the feedback protestfrom the many localised hearings is being heard quite loudly.
As one traditional fishing person said at the hearings in the Eastern Cape, “The sea is our land but we can only fish in our area to sustain life. The law is stopping us fishing for profit.”
The attendees at many hearings have said that the MSP Bill and similar regulations in force restrict families from earning from small local operations such as mining sand; allow only limited fishing licences and call for homes to be far from the sea denying communities the right to benefit from the sea and coastal strips for a living.
Hearings last went to the West Coast and were held with Saldanha Bay communities.
Conversely, insofar as Operation Phakisa is concerned, President Zuma, as has been stated, said clearly in his latest State of Nation Address that government has an eye for much more investment into oil and gas exploration. He has since announced that there are plans afoot to drill at least 30 deep-water oil and gas exploration wells within the next 10 years as part of Operation Phakisa.
Coupled to this is the more recent comment in Parliament that once viable oil and gas reserves are found, the country could possibly extract up to 370 000 barrels of fossil fuels each day within 20 years – the equivalent of 80% of current oil and gas imports.
According to the deadline set by the Operation Phakisa framework, the MSP Bill should have been taken to Parliament at the beginning of December 2016 for promulgation as an Act by the end of June 2017, making it appear that things are running late.
As the legislation is environmentally driven, with commercial interests coming to the surface in a limited manner at this stage, the matter is being handled by the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs. It is understood that later joint meetings will be held with the Trade and Industry Committee and with Energy Committee members.
Adding to the picture that is now beginning to emerge, is the fact that Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has signed a MOU with the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa.
Minister Pandor said at the time of signing, “The South African coastal and marine environment is one of our most important assets. Currently South Africa is not really deriving much from the ocean’s economy. This is therefore why we want to build a viable gas industry and unlock the country’s vast marine resources.”
OPASA is now to make more input with offshore oil and gas exploration facts and figures. Energy publications are now bandying figures around that developments in this sphere will contribute “about R20bn to South Africa’s GDP over a five-year period.” If this is the case, the Energy Minister might be compromised once again, as she was with renewables, on the future makeup of the planned energy mix.
Amongst the particularly worrying issues raised by opposition parliamentarians and various groupings in agricultural and fishing areas is that there is a proposal in the MSP Bill on circuit states that the Act will trump all other legislation when matters relate to marine spatial planning. DEA will have to answer this claim.
Earthlife Africa have also stated at hearings in Richards Bay that in their opinion “Operation Phakisa has very little to do with poverty alleviation and everything to do with profits for corporates, most likely with the familiar kickbacks for well-connected ‘tenderpreneurs’ and their political allies.”
This is obviously no reasoned argument and just a statement but gives an indication of what is to be faced by DEA in the coming months.
With such diverse views being expressed on the Bill, President Zuma and past Minister of Energy, Mmamaloko Kubayi cannot have missed the announcement that Italy’s Eni and US oil and gas giant, Anadarko, have signed agreements with the Mozambique government to develop gas fields and build two liquefied natural gas terminals on the coast to serve Southern African countries.
Eni says it is spending $8bn to develop the gas fields in Mozambique territorial waters and Anadarko is developing Mozambique’s first onshore LNG plant consisting of two initial LNG trains with a total capacity of 12-million tonnes per annum. More than $30bn, it has been stated in a joint release by those companies, is expected to be invested in Mozambique’s natural gas sector in the near future.
In general, therefore, the importance of a MSP Bill is far greater than most have realized. The vast number of countries called upon to have their MSP legislation in place also indicates international pressure for the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs to move at speed.
This follows a worldwide shift to exploiting maritime resources, an issue not supported by most enviro NGOs and green movements without serious restrictions. Most parliamentary comments indicate that the trail for oil and gas revenues needs following up and the need to create jobs in this sector is even greater.
Whilst the oil and gas industry and the proponents of Operation Phakisa also recognize that any form of MSP Bill should be approved to provide gateway rules for their operations and framework planning, the weight would seem to be behind the need for clarity in legislation and urgency in implementation of not only eco-friendly but labour creating legislation.
Operation Phakisa, as presented to Parliament particularly specified that the development of MSP legislation was necessary and Sean Lunn, chairperson of OPASA has said that the Bill will “add tangible value to South Africa’s marine infrastructure, protection services and ocean governance.” He said it will go a long way in mitigating differences between the environmentalists and developers.
Not so nice
On seabed mining, the position with the MSP Bill is not so clear, it seems. Saul Roux for the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) says that the Department of Mineral Resources granted a few years ago three rights to prospect for marine phosphates.
He also stated that the marine process “involves an extremely destructive form of mining where the top three metres of the seabed is dredged up and consequently destroys critical, delicate and insufficiently understood sea life in its wake.” Phosphates are predominantly used for agricultural fertiliser.
“These three rights”, he said “extend over 150,000 km2 or 10% of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone.”
One of CER’s objectives, Roux says, is to have in place a moratorium on bulk marine sediment mining in South Africa. He complains that despite the three mining rights having been gazetted, he cannot get any response from Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, or any access to any documents on the subject.
He stated there were two South African companies involved in mining sea phosphates and one international group, these being Green Flash Trading 251, Green Flash Trading 257 and Diamond Fields International, a Canadian mining company. All appeared to be interested in seabed exploration for phosphates although not necessarily mining itself.
Roux called for the implementation of an MSP Bill which specifically disallowed this activity as is the case in New Zealand, he said.
Coming your way
The MSP Bill was tabled in April 2017 and once provincial hearings are complete it will come to Parliament. The results of these hearings will be debated and briefings commenced when announced shortly.
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