PORT ELIZABETH – THE South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) marked the International Day of the Seafarer by officially opening its new national headquarters in Nelson Mandela Bay today (June 25).
The institute, which is based on the Ocean Sciences Campus of Nelson Mandela University in Summerstrand, operates under a government mandate to assist in growing the “blue economy” by facilitating maritime skills development through relationships between industry stakeholders and education and training institutions countrywide.
Dignitaries at the opening were guided through SAIMI’s role in the city and the global maritime sector, which includes everything from aquaculture and fisheries to coastal and marine tourism, shipping and off-shore oil and gas exploration.
“We are thrilled to be operating from our first permanent ‘home port’,” said SAIMI chief executive officer Professor Malek Pourzanjani. “But this is just the beginning for us, with our eventual aim being to have a presence in all South Africa’s coastal cities.
“In fact, there is already a satellite office at the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town, with a Durban branch in the pipeline.
“This planned expansion will position us well to ensure that we continue to play a vital role in South Africa’s oceans economy.”
The Institute also aims to strengthen maritime education and research through facilitating co-ordination and co-operation among education providers, a role which is enhanced by now being based at the Ocean Sciences Campus.
Delivering an address on behalf of NMU vice-chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa, SAIMI advisory board member Dr Oswald Franks – who is also dean of the faculty of engineering, built environment and information technology – said the opening of the national head office represented significant a milestone in the development of SAIMI, which launched in 2014.
“It also represents a significant commitment to the national agenda of growing the oceans economy,” said Franks.
“Nelson Mandela University’s Ocean Sciences Campus is an excellent environment for SAIMI to discharge its national mandate.”
Franks acknowledged the founding partners of SAIMI – the South African Maritime Safety Authority, the Department of Higher Education and Training, the National Skills Fund and NMU – and welcomed new key partner the Transport Education and Training Authority.
He said a strong advisory board, comprising leaders in the maritime sector – across government, business and the education sector, helped to provide strategic direction and support networks for SAIMI.
Dispensing with the usual handing out of corporate gifts at the opening of the new offices, SAIMI opted instead to show its community spirit and reiterate its support for the sector by making a donation to the local chapter of the Mission to Seafare, which aids seafarers in distress.
“This is an extremely worthy global organisation,” said Pourzanjani. “On our behalf, seafarers face many dangers, including piracy, which may mean that their ship does not safely reach port.
“The Mission, through its Angels of Mercy centres in cities such as Port Elizabeth, Durban and Cape Town, helps seafarers to stay in touch with their families while on these long, sometimes dangerous, trips and also ensures the safety and well-being of seafarers who face abandonment and homesickness.
“What better way to mark International Seafarers Day than through this gesture? It perfectly fits SAIMI’s vision of national, regional and international interaction and could become a legacy project which we would support annually.”