The unlocking of Africa’s blue economy for sustainable ocean development offers Nelson Mandela Bay new growth areas, including that of education and training, writes Ed Richardson.

A PARTNERSHIP between Finnish company Wärtsilä and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) will help produce the skills and knowledge required to develop the South African “blue economy”.

That’s according to Greg Davids, Wärtsilä Business Development Partner in Africa.

He says Wärtsilä’s relationship with NMMU will go far beyond the donation of an 11-ton Wärtsilä 20 engine through the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), which is being hosted by NMMU.

The vision is to have the capacity to “design and build vessels in Africa for African conditions”.

He says most vessels currently working in African waters are not designed for the continent’s sea conditions, which are rougher than most other places in the world.

“The majority of fishing vessels operating in African waters are bought second-hand. And if they are bought new from an overseas shipyard they are not designed for our rough top deck conditions and rough seas,” he says.

What was needed were patrol boats and hydrographic research craft to protect the country’s marine resources, as well as workboats such as tugs, bunker barges, cable laying vessels and boats to service the growing offshore oil and gas industry.

While Wärtsilä does not build vessels, it is one of the leading suppliers of marine propulsion systems and has 180 years of experience to share with local ship designers and builders, says Davids.

“Africa has never fully harnessed its ocean resources. Working with NMMU, Wärtsilä wants to assist the continent to do that,” he adds.