SA Agulhas II arrives in Tanzania for Second International Indian Ocean Expedition II

15 June 2018


Earlier today the Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) research and polar vessel, the SA Agulhas II docked in Tanzania, as part of South Africa’s second training and capacity building voyage for the International Indian Ocean Expedition II (IIOE2). The IIOE2 is a multi-national programme of the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) which emphasises the need to research the Indian Ocean and its influence on the climate and its marine ecosystem.

The IOC recognised that there was a persistent lack of basic long-term environmental information in the Indian Ocean, particularly for countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. As a result, the IOC decided to declare the beginning of the IIOE2, 50 years after the first IIOE.  This renewed interest in the area has brought numerous research voyages with state-of-the-art technology. The data collection will cover physics, chemistry, plankton, biodiversity, large animals such as whales and seabirds as well as geology.

The gathering of basic long-term environmental data and information will place the developing countries of the Indian Ocean, in a better position to conserve the integrity of its ocean, find ways to unlock their respective potential Ocean Economies to improve the lives of their citizens; and to better detect and adapt to ocean related threats to coastal communities and infrastructure. All these data provide important information in understanding the ocean environment and its links to developing a successful sustainable Ocean Economy.

South Africa, too, has committed to this very important initiative with research voyages in our own waters of the Indian Ocean. Within the ocean context and its links to Climate Change, national efforts must be coordinated with regional programmes, as many of the processes occur and impact several countries at once. The impacts of extreme ocean-based events will affect both economic and social aspects of the country. This is very relevant in South Africa when considering the Ocean Economy Strategy within the broader NDP-Vision 2030, in addressing economic growth, poverty alleviation and job creation.

Additionally, in 2017 South Africa accepted the Chair of IORA and cabinet approved the utilisation of the DEA’s research vessels, SA Agulhas II and RV Algoa, as research platforms in the region during the IIOE2 period, to not only enhance our own information in our waters but to assist our African neighbours in understanding theirs.

The scientific expeditions will also contribute towards the establishment of Regional Centres of Competence to build capacity, as contained in the IOC Sub-Commission for Africa (IOCAFRICA) strategy document within South Africa, Mauritius, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania and Kenya. In order to facilitate cooperation and strengthening of capacity the centres were defined, based on existing initiatives within the selected country:

  • Cape Town, South Africa: Operational Oceanography
  • Port Louis, Mauritius: Satellite Remote Sensing
  • Zanzibar, Tanzania: Biodiversity
  • Mombasa, Kenya: Data and Information Management

These centres will also act as regional training facilities, collaborative areas and to allow for regional and international experts to run hands-on training workshops, etc. 

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