On 29 January 2016, the Department of Science and Technology and the Offshore Petroleum Association of South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding in terms of which the South African Marine Research and Exploration Forum (SAMREF) was established.

The launch of SAMREF is a part of Operation Phakisa B3. Operation Phakisa is an intergovernmental initiative designed to fast track the development of certain areas identified by the Government as critical. The initiative focuses inter alia on promoting the development of South Africa's ocean economy, with oil and gas exploration as one of its major objectives.  Under Operation Phakisa, the Government is undertaking various activities (such as the launch of SAMREF) to accelerate and support the growth of South Africa's offshore oil and gas sector.

SAMREF aims to exploit research opportunities in offshore oil and gas exploration in South Africa by (i) enhancing joint research projects and collaborative offshore studies between the public and private sectors, and (ii) increasing research opportunities for publicly funded research institutions.  

SAMREF will facilitate the exchange of data and information between the forum's members through its brokerage service.   Such exchange of information and data is done on a voluntary basis.  A database will be created in which members are able to advertise research opportunities or make requests for research needed in a particular sector.  Members of the forum are free to collaborate on the advertised opportunities or respond to research requests.  

The joint research projects will be governed by partnership agreements, which the parties are responsible for settling between themselves. 

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