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Contributing to Maritime Sector Growth, a Priority for Master of Commerce graduates

April 20, 2015

Maritime Studies researchers (from left) Mr John Burns, Ms Yolandi Nieuwenhuis, Ms Shakti Singh and Mr John Gower.
Maritime Studies researchers (from left) Mr John Burns, Ms Yolandi Nieuwenhuis, Ms Shakti Singh and Mr John Gower.

UKZN’s College of Law and Management Studies celebrated the graduation of its Master of Commerce in Maritime Studies students Mr John Burns, Mr Jack Dyer, Mr John Bradley Gower, Ms Shakti Singh and Ms Yolandi Nieuwenhuis, whose valuable research will contribute to the growth of South Africa’s maritime industry. 

UKZN is the only university in South Africa offering an amalgam of maritime offerings through its Unit of Maritime Law and Maritime Studies. 

In their dissertations, the students focused on various aspects of the industry including international economics, maritime economics, transport economics and management policies - all key elements in the government’s strategy through operation Phakisa for job creation and development of the maritime industry. 

Burns’ thesis was titled: “An Offshore Transhipment Operation as an Alternative to an Investment in Port Infrastructure Development”.  

His research, supervised by Professor Trevor Jones, aims to find a more feasible alternative to an investment in port infrastructure which can offer a solution to increasing economic development in Africa which is vital to the continent’s survival in these economically challenging times. 

Burns, a Maritime Specialist at PRDW Consulting Port and Coastal Engineers in Cape Town, said the degree empowered him with the knowledge, skills and confidence to tackle the challenges that come with the job. 

‘This degree met my requirements more comprehensively than any other course offered in the maritime industry. It exposed me to lecturers who are experts in their respective fields. Their knowledge and experience is what I believe allowed me to achieve success in my studies,’ said Burns. 

Dyer’s research examined the question: “Is Durban's Proposed Port Expansion Really Necessary?”, also supervised by Jones. 

The study explores the extent to which Durban’s International Airport/ Bayhead and other port expansion/modernisation projects under consideration in ports throughout the world from Santos to Maputo, Bagamoyo, Singapore and Los Angeles, are really necessary. The alternative approach is to prioritise enhancing existing efficiency as a more feasible substitute. 

During his Masters degree, Dyer served as a part-time lecturer in Shipping at the SA Maritime College and Transport School in Durban, and also advised various stakeholders on port pricing, custom's modernisation and other topics making his study the perfect combination of theory and practice. 

‘I wanted to evaluate Durban’s harbours from the perspective of Maritime Law and Economics in a developing Second World economy and compare and contrast them with other leading harbours,’ said Dyer. ‘This is what motivated me to choose this topic.  Most of all; I believe that pursuing Maritime Studies at UKZN under the supervision of Professor Trevor Jones - one of the most accomplished of maritime economist academics in Africa - offered me the chance to be a part of a new specialty that the world will need more of.  This includes learning from world renowned specialists; gaining contacts; understanding the challenges that face the maritime sector; understanding the implications of international maritime law and port economics, along with everything from customs and revenue to the physical harbour operation, and finally making a difference?.’

Continuing on his quest for knowledge, Dyer is currently pursuing a PhD in Maritime and Logistics Management at the Australian Maritime College, a specialist institute of the University of Tasmania. The qualification will see him investigate the effects of climate change on seaports, shipping and the maritime economy in the Pacific. 

Gower’s work was titled: “An Analysis of the Risks of Piracy off the Somali Coast, and the Effectiveness of Preventative Measures”.  His supervisor was Mr Vishal Surbun. 

Singh’s dissertation was titled: “Will the Rotterdam Rules Eliminate the Challenges Encountered by Preceding Carriage Regimes?”. 

 For Nieuwenhuis, being a Specialist in Customs and Excise Legal Advice at the South African Revenue Services requires a healthy knowledge of both law and economics thus studying for a commerce degree in maritime was the perfect solution. 

‘As a Legal Advisor for SARS, I deal with both Customs and Excise matters.  Having an understanding of the technical and practical issues as well as trade facilitation barriers experienced by the Shipping industry, puts me in a better position to understand the challenges of the industry and provide legal advice and assistance accordingly,’ she said. 

Having a Masters in Law degree provided Nieuwenhuis with good understanding of the legal framework of the shipping industry. However, she needed to broaden her knowledge on the economic aspects to better understand the maritime sector and did so through her dissertation titled: “Coastal Cabotage: A Contested Transport Policy Terrain”, also supervised by Jones. 

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