Fact file: SA Agulhas

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The SA Agulhas is South Africa’s current polar research vessel. She has been in service for almost thirty years and is nearing the end of her term of service. In November 2009 the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs inked a 116 million euro deal with shipbuilder STX Finland Oy to build a replacement for delivery in April 2012.

Designation:

Steel Hulled, Ice strengthened Antarctic Supply/Oceanographic Research Vessel/ LRS Ice Class 1

Numbers:

1.

Main contractor:

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Shimonoseki, Japan

Cost:

Laid down:

1977

Ship’s company:

138 comprising 40 crew and 98 scientific/other staff.

Major dimensions & weights:

  • Displacement:

  • Length:

  • Beam:

  • Draught:

  • 1836.88mt.

  • 111.95m.

  • 18.05m.

  • 6.045.

Hull:

Steel, strengthened

Survivability:

Not known.

Main machinery:

Mitsubishi diesel.

Performance:

  • Output, max (diesels):

  • Speed, max:

  • Range, miles:

  • Endurance:

  • 4476 kW.

  • 14 knots.

  • 15,000nm at 12.5 knots.

  • 90 days.

Electronics:

  • Radars:

  • Sonar:

  • Other:

  • Not known.

  • Not known.

  • Not known.

Armament:

  • Missiles:

  • Guns:

  • Torpedoes:

  • Helicopters:

  • None.

  • None.

  • None.

  • Two seconded SAAF Denel Oryx helicopters.

Furnishings:

Not known.

Expected life-time:

30 years

Comment:

The SA Agulhas is South Africa’s polar research vessel. She has been in service for almost thirty years and is nearing the end of her term of service.

The Agulhas is used to service the three SA National Antarctic Programme research bases in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica as well as various research voyages. See also: http://www.sanap.org.za/transport.html

The crew is provided by contractor Smit Amandla Marine.

In November 2009 the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs inked a 116 million euro deal with shipbuilder STX Finland Oy to build a replacement for delivery in April 2012. STX beat competing bids from Astillero Barreras of Spain, Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands and Keppelsingmarine from Singapore.

“The new ship will, like the SA Agulhas, have to perform the crucial annual relief and supply function to the three remote stations Marion Island, Gough Island and SANAE (South African research base) in Antarctica,” the department said in a statement at the time.

According to the shipbuilder’s website, the ship will be built at the Rauma shipyard in Finland and delivered in April 2012. The 134m icebreaker will carry facilities for two Oryx-class medium utility helicopters and will feature a gym, library and a small hospital.

Unlike the SA Agulhas, the new vessel will also have facilities for research on climate change and deep sea oceanography. Eight hundred square metres has been set aside for laboratories and on-deck research areas. The ship will accommodate 45 crew and 100 passengers.

The department’s Antarctica director Henry Valentine said the investment reflected government’s commitment to the South African Antarctic Programme. The department’s chief director of Antarctic research, Dr Johan Augustyn, added the new ship “will be able to break through thicker ice at higher speeds (than the Agulhas), which will extend our Antarctic season by about a month. “It will be a more effective tool and not cost much more to maintain than the Agulhas as it has three times as much power while being more fuel-efficient,” he added.

Marine and Coastal Management project manager Alan Robertson said the next step in the vessel’s construction was its detailed engineering before the first steel would be cut in September next year. Valentine said the Agulhas was still in good shape and was put through a rigorous test of her seafaring condition last year and “passed with flying colours”, Business Day reported. “We have great confidence that the ship will be able to operate well beyond the new vessel’s delivery date,” he said. After the department takes delivery of the new vessel, the SA Agulhas will be sold.



Marine and Coastal Management deputy director-general Dr Monde Mayekiso said the vessel had not yet been given a name.