The vision of the Nansen-Tutu Centre (NTC) for Marine Environmental Research is to serve Africa through advancing knowledge of the marine environment and climate system in the spirit of Nobel Peace Laureates Fridtjof Nansen and Desmond Tutu.

The Nansen-Tutu Centre is hosted at the UCT Department of Oceanography, in the RW James Building, on Residence Road, UCT Upper Campus in Rondebosch, Cape Town.

The Nansen-Tutu Centre’s activities are enabled from contributions from its Norwegian and South African partners and from projects. In kind contributions are received from the other partners.

Every year a board meeting is held in Cape Town.


The University of Cape Town, the Nansen Environmental Centre in Norway and their partners are setting up a joint venture in South Africa to gather information about the three oceans around southern Africa, to better understand and deal with global change across the continent.

The Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research aims to develop and implement operational oceanography and methods of data integration into models in the South Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean, with a focus on ocean state, marine environmental and ecosystem modelling, research and capacity building, including their roles in climate and global teleconnections – the relationship between climate anomalies in different parts of the world.

“We have identified a gap that badly needs filling in order to understand and deal with global change in Africa,” said Professor John Field, former Director of the Marine Research Institute at UCT.  “There is a worldwide need to understand, model and predict conditions in the ocean, just as meteorological services do for the weather. The partners will develop a system to routinely collect data via satellite and direct observations in the ocean – what we call operational oceanography.”

The centre has been named to honour two men – a Norwegian and a South African – who have demonstrated a passion for the natural environment as well as humanity. Dr Fridtjof Nansen was honoured as a Nobel Peace Laureate for his humanitarian work in helping to resettle millions of people displaced by political boundaries after World War I. But he was also a noted sportsman, scientist, explorer, and philosopher, who led a successful expedition to the North Pole in 1893. He is widely regarded as one of Norway’s greatest sons.

Similarly, Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, also a Nobel Peace Laureate and a “rabble-rouser for peace”, is one of South Africa’s greatest sons. He campaigned peacefully against apartheid, chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, and has worked tirelessly for peace in the world since his “retirement” as Archbishop of Cape Town. The Nansen-Tutu Centre is greatly honoured by Archbishop Tutu in allowing his name to be associated with this partnership.

The Natural Laboratory

Africa juts into the Indian, South Atlantic and Southern Oceans with cool and warm oceans juxtaposed, giving rise to unique marine and land ecosystems with high biodiversity, rich fisheries and superb natural resources that contribute not only to food production but also to South Africa’s vibrant tourism industry. It is therefore important, from an economic and ecological perspective, that we develop the capacity for understanding and predicting the state of the ocean and its ecosystems.

The aims of the Nansen-Tutu Centre include:

  • The generation of joint research and development activities between scientists and students from the partner institutions and the Nansen Group.

  • The exchange of visiting scientists and students between the participating institutions.

  • Co-supervision of post-graduate students.

  • Coordinating and facilitating joint project proposals to be submitted for funding through national, EU and international bodies.

  • Technical development, infrastructure and support for pre-operational production and demonstration of information and services.

  • Developing capacity through joint courses, workshops, training and research schools.

  • Ensuring integration with other operational oceanography components in Africa.

  • Ensuring open and free access to the centre’s resources, data, products and achievements.

  • Cooperation in the fields of distance educational courses and research programmes.

  • Joint participation in field campaigns.

  • The stimulation of international collaboration and activities such as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), CLIVAR, the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GOADAE) and the sustainable Marine Core Service (e.g. MyOcean).

  • Outreach, including development of a web page, public interface with research, media and the involvement of stakeholders and users.


Please contact the Dept. of Oceanography Administrative Officer, Cashifa Karriem for more information:

 Tel: (+27) 21 650 3277