The First Maritime Heritage Conference charted new ground and initiated a coordinated effort to communicate the importance of our maritime heritage and current maritime endeavours.

The conference promoted the interests and values of maritime industries, created a string of tangible and intangible benefits, initiated and enhanced the attention and interests to maritime museums heritage and illustrated how better understanding our past through the lens of Maritime Heritage will help the world better navigate the future.

This year’s global theme, ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’, provided an opportunity for the South African port to reflect on the contributions of women in the sector and to promote its achievements in terms of gender equality in an industry historically dominated by males.

Speaking at the event Executive Mayor of Emfuleni, Councillor Gift Moerane said: “ The global theme means more than just ensuring economic involvement of women in the Maritime economy but it should address the misery inflicted on defenseless women of our land at the hands of brutal cowards who claim to be men. We call on society to unite to eliminate this scourge beyond the 16 Days program against violence perpetrated towards women and children”.

The aim of the Maritime Heritage Conference was to broaden the understanding of the sustainable use of the inland waterways to transform and grow the economies of the non-coastal municipalities and provinces thus the celebration came under the theme, Maritime Heritage: Reclaiming our Future, Advancing our Past.

Mayor Moerane also added that: “The relevance of this theme “Reclaim our Future and Advance our Past” talks to the people of Evaton, Sharpeville as it does to Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark”. The Vaal River is our Image and our Identity. The Vaal River Embodies our Heritage.The Vaal River Created the Vaal Triangle, not the Opposite”.

The event also explored and showcased our country's maritime heritage and related economic opportunities. TNPA’s Captain Naresh Sewnath, Senior Manager Pilotage & Vessel Traffic Services, addressed the event with a message of support and a presentation on the topic 'Port Maritime History - Legacy, Challenges and Future Prospects’

The Conference also served as a launching pad for the much-needed maritime community awareness – through the Maritime Careers and Jobs Expo, which, together with the Maritime Heritage Lecture laid bare to the youth the fascinating wealth and knowledge embedded in the abundant maritime heritage space and assets, the economic opportunities and environmental risks presented by marine resources.

The heritage legislation in South Africa has recognised the importance of protecting maritime culture for many years, and national legislation has included the protection of shipwrecks as early as 1979. Heritage is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture. Most important, it is the range of contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviours that we draw from them.

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