PRETORIA, South Africa’s Cabinet has approved the Coastal and Marine Tourism Implementation Plan which is aimed at growing the economy and boosting tourism, says Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.

Developed under the auspices of the Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy, the plan will also seek to integrate coastal developments with existing inland experiences, with the view to maximise participation opportunities, Dlodlo added when briefing the media here Thursday on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting.

The plan will uplift tourism in the ocean economy. It will grow a world-class and sustainable coastal and marine tourism destination that leverages South Africa’s competitive advantages in nature, culture and heritage, said Dlodlo.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority says marine tourism ranks among the top four sub-sectors of the country’s maritime economic sector projected for phenomenal growth in the next two decades. According to the authority, it contributed 19 billion Rand (about 1,43 billion US dollars) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, with projections currently indicating yields as high as 44 billion Rand in 2020 and rising rapidly to 134 billion Rand in 2033, while generating between 800,000 and one million jobs.

The Cabinet has also approved South Africa’s participation in the Second International Indian Ocean Expedition which will take place from 2017 to 2020. The participation will support South Africa’s chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in 2017/18.

South Africa plays a strategic role as one of seven founding members of the IORA, which opens opportunities beyond South Africa’s coastal marine and tourism, and extends opportunities to one third of the world’s coastline.

Dlodlo said South Africa would use its research vessel, the SA Agulhas II, to conduct marine research, while training and building scientific capacity for South Africa and East Africa. The gathering of basic long-term environmental data and information will place the developing countries of the Indian Ocean Rim in a better position to conserve the integrity of its ocean and to find ways to unlock their respective potential ocean economies to improve the lives of their citizens, she added.

The Cabinet was also briefed on the Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa Labs, which are scheduled to commence opertions this month. These labs form part of the country’s intervention to manage the threats to the environment and human health caused by chemicals and waste.

Dloldo said the labs would also provide a further opportunity for the South African chemical industry to identify manufacturing niches that are associated with Green Chemistry � the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances.