South African President Jacob Zuma promised Saturday to help ramp up investment in the country's maritime industries as part of an ambitious plan to boost economic growth and cut unemployment.
"The vast ocean space is relatively unexplored in terms of its economic potential," said Zuma in the eastern coastal city Durban as he launched the first part of the project.
He has tasked government, industry and civil society experts with drawing up detailed plans to develop the country's shipping and shipbuilding, offshore oil and gas exploration, and fish farming industries.
Economic activity around South Africa's 3,900-kilometre (2,440-mile) coastline has the potential to contribute $16.6 billion (12.3 billion euros) to the country's GDP and to create up to one million jobs -- tripling current production and employment figures, said Zuma.
The proposals are part of the National Development Plan (NDP), which the government hopes will provide a framework for massive infrastructure upgrades to help improve the economy.
The plan was adopted in 2012 but attempts to implement any of the measures within it have met fierce opposition from the African National Congress' (ANC) ruling partners.
The ANC-allied Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the country's largest trade union federation, also opposes the plan, which it says will hit workers' rights.
"We feel the NDP is seriously flawed and self-contradictory," COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven told AFP on Saturday.
"We still want to see it completely redrafted."
But the ANC has touted its overwhelming victory in elections in May -- when the party won 62 per cent of the vote -- as a sign of support for the plan.
Over a quarter of the population is currently unemployed in Africa's most developed economy, which has battled to shake off sluggish growth.