South African shipbuilders have called on government to develop a new policy to grow the industry by allowing the employment of skilled foreign workers for longer periods.

The Chief Executive of Southern Africa Shipyards Prasheen Maharaj says red tape is hampering growth because the tenure of lease by foreign companies is too short.

Maharaj was speaking at an event to celebrate women in the largely male-dominated industry. Maharaj says a policy review is needed to create a million jobs by 2033.

“I think in terms of the policy, South Africa has created a policy underpinned by operation Phakisa, underpinned by the legalisation policy. The challenge comes in the implementation of the policy but what we would really like to see are new policies that talk about creating an enabling environment in order for the shipbuilding industry to thrive. When we come and make investments into the shipbuilding and ship repair industries the tenure of leases is too short. Many come to bring in skilled labour that will translate technologies. Unfortunately the visa requirements prohibts us from bringing skilled professionals into the country from overseas that will transfer technology to the local people,” says Maharaj.

Meanwhile, one of the young women apprentices at Southern Africa Shipyards Lungile Mkhize says she’s up to the challenges she faces in the industry.

“I’ve been working here, this is my fourth and last year of electrical apprentice. It has its own challenges but we learn every day something new. It’s an exciting environment but we try every day to break the barrier of male dominancy in this industry,” says Mkhize.