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Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga on Tuesday announced a new program called the Seafarer Employment and Development Program (SEDP), which aims to create new employment opportunities for South African seafarers.

The SEDP will be launched in the first quarter of the new financial year. To discuss how the initiative will work, the department will convene with industry stakeholders next month.

"This program is not just about creating job opportunities; it is about nurturing a skilled workforce that will competently navigate the challenges and opportunities of the modern maritime world," Chikunga said, as per SA News.

According to the minister, this program will provide training, mentorship and job placement assistance to seafarers. It will also serve as a platform for international collaborative maritime research and help address maritime industry requirements.

Moreover, the program will increase the employability of South African seafarers and provide them with the necessary skills and expertise to excel globally.

"It is an initiative that underlines our commitment to not only foster growth within the maritime sector but also contribute significantly to our national economy," the minister said.

The program was announced during the handover of SA Agulhas, a former polar research vessel that helped with maritime education, training and polar research. Made in Japan, the vessel was launched in 1977.

"I am happy to confirm that with this handover, we have a firm commitment from our German Counterparts and JS Maritime represented by Captain Stefan Bulow, who will be the new owners that our aspirations for seafarer employment creation will be realized," Chikunga said.

"The handover of the SA Agulhas is thus a strategic move on our part, ensuring that this historic vessel continues to contribute significantly under new stewardship while aligning with our national interests," she added.

The minister noted that the handover of the vessel did not only signify a change in ownership but also symbolized the government's commitment toward maritime excellence and innovation driven by strategic partnerships.

Chikunga said she received a briefing from the South African Maritime Safety Authority​ regarding the intent to use this vessel in the future.

"Upon learning that the vessel will continue as a platform to further the research agenda that informs the future of our planet, I was made proud once more about my association with the SA Aghulus," she shared.