The Port of Cape Town has been identified as a strategic location to host an Antarctic Centre by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The centre would bring the Antarctic continent closer to South African residents and promote economic opportunities in the country.
An announcement of the tactical move to build the centre at the city’s Port was made at the launch of Antarctic Season, an event jointly hosted by the DEA and Transnet National Ports Authority.
On December 3, the departure of the South African Agulhas II to Antarctic for its annual relief voyage marked the start of the South African-Norwegian seminar and exhibit that ends on December 7. The Antarctic Season occurs annually between November and March, functioning as a Gateway to Antarctic nations and cities.
Seminars between the two nations in previous years have lasted two days but this year’s was extended to five days, signalling the strategic importance of South Africa as an Antarctic Gateway. The public can attend the event which includes various exhibits and heritage presentations.
Director of the DEA, Nosiphi Ngcaba, explains the purpose, features and benefits of the centre, which all add up to an increase economic opportunities.
“The centre will accommodate the Antarctic Logistics Network, which will be a virtual network of members that provide advice, assistance and referrals as businesses that understand polar conditions. This will provide a single point of contact for all Antarctica-related business enquiries, offering clients … connections to private businesses, educational institutions, research bodies, and government agencies,” she says.
A statement issued by the DEA says that the centre will increase geopolitical alliances and travel opportunities to Antarctic and the Southern Ocean Islands. Other countries that serve as gateway ports to the Antarctic include: Germany, Norway, Russia, Belgium, Japan, United Kingdom, India, Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland.
DEA Technical Specialist Henry Valentine announced during a speech he made at the launch of Antarctic Season that multiple countries use Cape Town as a port to travel through.
“Eleven countries use Cape Town as a gateway to Antarctica – either by sea or air. Flying from Cape Town to Antarctica takes about seven hours,” he said.
The Port of Cape Town is frequented by those travelling to the Antarctic to carry out research.
#portofcapetown is prominent in visits by vessels of explorers, on their way to Antarctica, & more recently by those performing research in #Antarctica & #SouthernOcean. #AntarcticSeasonWeek pic.twitter.com/eP4jbxf5EP
— Environmentza (@environmentza) December 3, 2018
Port Manager, Mpumi Dweba-Kwetana, says the establishment of the centre aligns with the mandate of Operation Phakisa. This operation was launched in 2014 and aims to increase the economic potential of the country’s oceans so as to stimulate growth and job opportunities.
“The Port of Cape Town is pleased to work with the DEA in hosting the launch of Antarctic Season and the SA-Norwegian seminar, particularly because the exhibition element of the event is open to the public. TNPA is committed to bringing the community closer to the port, and it is through educational exhibitions like this that young South Africans will be exposed to the vast array of maritime careers on offer,” says Dweba-Kwetana.
Picture: Twitter/DEA/departure of SA Agulhas II from Cape Town