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Port Cities Work To Forge Ties
​The Indian Ocean Observatory of Cities and Ports met in Durban recently. Among the dignitaries were the organisation’s President, Wilfrid Bertile, Mayor Obed Mlaba, its Vice President, and Jean-Yves Langenier, Mayor of Le Port, Reunion.
The Indian Ocean Observatory of Cities and Ports met in Durban recently for a seminar to improve co-operation between ports in the region, with a focus on environmental protection. The seminar, at the Docklands Hotel, presented research on the cruise industry in the western Indian Ocean and environmental practices in port cities and harbours.
About 70 delegates from 10 countries heard about port expansion plans in the member cities, including the proposed port on the site of the Durban International Airport. Piracy was hitting the liner industry hard, the seminar heard, with many cruise ships cancelling visits to ports on the east coast of Africa. Mayor Obed Mlaba, who is Vice President of the Observatory addressed delegates at the opening of the seminar and during a boat trip on the harbour. “The idea of the observatory is to identify opportunities, because there are many available in seas around Africa,” Mlaba said.
He said hosting the two-day seminar was an indication of the important role played by the port in the economy of Durban, the country and the continent. “As we continue to seek opportunities for growth it is important that we co-operate with other port cities to share experiences and expertise. “Durban has been engaged in creating sister city relations with many partners in the world so that we can learn from each other.
This gathering of the cities and ports of the Indian Ocean is one such opportunity that we welcome as we seek to develop our economies,” said Mlaba. According to the National Ports Authority, Durban is well placed on shipping routes and is South Africa’s main general cargo and container port, handling about 31.4 million tons of cargo, worth more than R50-billion each year. Forty-four percent of South Africa’s break-bulk cargo and 61% of all containerised cargo flows through the Port of Durban and an average of 83 000 containers a month are handled at the port’s container terminal, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Creating jobs
Mlaba said creating jobs remained a major challenge facing the Observatory. “The maritime industry is a sector we need to focus on to exploit the opportunities it offers. We live in a globalised world, which makes it possible for the world to be at our fingertips. That is why it is important we position our cities as an attractive route for global trade”. He stressed, however, that increased economic activity must be sustainable. “We have to take resolutions that are sustainable so our cities can reap the rewards for generations to come,” Mlaba said.
President of the Ocean Observatory of Cities and Ports, Wilfrid Bertile, said, “The seminar was a big success. We would like to thank everyone who participated and hope the next seminar, in Mauritius, will be as successful.” Indian Ocean Observatory of Cities and Ports was formed in 2009 to help ports in the region work together to address matters of mutual concern.

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