Progress on submarine annex to Naval Museum

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The latest addition to Simon’s Town’s naval infrastructure – a dedicated submarine annex to the SA Naval Museum – is moving slow ahead with a site prepared as the final home of what was SAS Assegaai (S99).

The last of three Daphne underwater craft acquired by the SA Navy (SAN) and operated during the seventies, eighties and early nineties, Assegaai (commissioned as SAS Johanna van der Merwe) has since being decommissioning served as an alongside museum and now awaits her final transit to a specially built cradle alongside the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) base at Cole Point.

Assegaai remains SAN property as part of the naval museum with the Naval Heritage Trust (NHT) delegated to renovate, move and install her at Cole Point. Once there, with entrance/exit doors fitted in her hull, the NHT will manage and operate the submarine in similar fashion to when she was in the water alongside the outer wall of Simon’s Town harbour.

Retired admiral Hanno Teuteberg, chair of the Assegaai submarine museum sub-committee, reports progress with the submarine’s final docking point cleared and foundations laid. “These foundations will match the chocks to be welded onto the pressure hull. We look forward to taking ownership of buildings on site to prepare for the shore exhibitions – periscope, sonar consoles and associated operations room equipment,” he said.

Elsewhere in the dockyard “much action” to prepare S99 for her final move has seen the submarine cradle serviceable and now able to move on greased bearings. “Damen Shipyard Cape Town (headed by an ex-submarine captain) was extremely helpful with their support in terms of manufacture and delivery of the chock frame required for the move. Apprentices spent days welding frames and vertical support struts together in the dockyard welding shop” – Teuteberg notes wryly “the shop has probably not been that busy since the SAS Tafelberg conversion!”

“Next step was for frames to be laid in position under the boat after which transport chocks could be aligned with the hull. Ready for final ‘scribbing’ and welding to the hull. It must be emphasised none of the designs and actual work could have taken place without the assistance and oversight of retired admiral Kevin Watson – give that man a Bells!

“Dockyard is currently getting rid of other vessels that will impede the submarine’s move to N3 from where it must be moved to the exhibition site. This is progressing well. The next phase would be to move the submarine.

“Lifting and moving the submarine has been quoted at R1.725 million. This is the critical phase as repair of the boat’s exterior can then take place over time using the expertise of our volunteers.

“We have raised approximately 30% of the move fund required and will continue fundraising efforts.

“What we desperately need is a corporate sponsor. Be aware we will not abandon the project but may have to press the ‘pause’ button until such time funding for the move is secured,” he said.