Submarine Museum relocation moves forward with major boost from mayoral donation

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The Mayor of Cape Town has made a significant contribution of R750 000 to the Naval Heritage Trust (NHT) to support the relocation of the submarine SAS Assegaai to its new home at the Submarine Museum of Technology. This donation aims to further the Trust’s efforts to preserve this historical vessel and transform it into a unique educational and tourist attraction.

SAS Assegaai is the last remaining of three French-built Daphné Class submarines that were operated by the South African Navy from the 1970s into the 1990s. It successfully served as a museum from 2010 to 2015, docked alongside the outer wall of Simon’s Town harbour. When the submarine was taken out of the water in 2015 and placed on the synchro lift inside the harbour, it became apparent that the outer hull had deteriorated. Although the interior remained well-maintained, a permanent solution was needed to keep the submarine out of the water while maintaining accessibility. The museum has been closed since then.

The priority is to move the submarine to a new site provided by the Navy at the western end of the Cole Point parking area. The Trust had accumulated some funds during the period it operated as a museum and used these to prepare the concrete foundations for the plinth. Damen Shipyards Cape Town generously manufactured and fitted a lifting structure and plinths that will also serve as entry and exit platforms.

The quotes to move the submarine were in excess of R1.8 million, contingent on the availability of hydraulic lifting platforms in Cape Town, with Vanguard Heavylift showing particular interest and willingness to assist. Earlier this year, the Trust crossed the R1 million mark in their fundraising efforts.

The Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Geordin Hill-Lewis, identified the NHT as a recipient for support from the Mayoral Fund, which allows for limited allocations to qualifying organisations at the Mayor’s discretion.

Hill-Lewis expressed the City’s enthusiasm for supporting the Assegaai’s preservation: “The City is glad to support the Assegaai’s continued sustainability as a unique educational and tourist attraction for schools and visitors from far and wide. This is the only preserved submarine of its kind in Africa, containing all sorts of fascinating technology for young and old to immerse themselves in. We look forward to the relocation of this floating museum to land, along with the expanded opportunities for learning and tourism.”

Rear Admiral (JG) Arne Soderland (Rtd), representing the NHT, noted that the Mayoral donation “enabled us to start the move as it covered the full cost.”

Vanguard Heavylift, known for its expertise in complex lifting operations, is scheduled to carry out a final site inspection in late June, with the move provisionally planned for mid-July. Meanwhile, the Dockyard will complete work on the docking bogeys, allowing the submarine to be moved along the synchro lift to where it can be lifted by four hydraulic platforms.

Once relocated, SAS Assegaai will remain the property of the South African Navy as part of the SA Naval Museum. The NHT has been delegated to move, install and manage the submarine on a hard stand at the western end of the Cole Point parking area, next to the new NSRI Station 10 building.

The public unveiling of SAS Assegaai is planned for early October, although the submarine may not yet be open to inboard visitors at that time.