SA Agulhas now a training vessel


The polar supply and research ship SA Agulhas has been re-launched as a dedicated training vessel by the South African Maritime Safety Authority, after being replaced in her former roles by the SA Agulhas II.

The SA Agulhas departed Cape Town harbour yesterday on her first voyage as a dedicated training vessel, with 32 cadets on board. The vessel is undertaking a scientific training journey to Durban, where another 15 cadets will embark, reports News24. The vessel was handed over to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) by the Department of Environmental Affairs earlier this year.

Later this year the SA Agulhas will sail to Angola, Ghana, Namibia, Liberia and the United Kingdom whilst training cadets and studying ocean conditions – an important area of focus will be on the effects of climate change on the ocean and how carbon dioxide is making the seas more acidic.

Department of Transport director-general George Mahlalela told Business Day that it was important to provide South Africa with skilled navigators and marine engineers in order to redevelop the country’s maritime industry and create jobs.

Samsa CEO Commander Tsietsi Mokhele told News24 that a lack of South African-owned vessels for cadet training was contributing to the dropping number of maritime studies graduates – only 120 marine officer candidates are produced a year in South Africa. Mokhele said the intention was to increase this number by at least ten times in years to come.

Although the SA Agulhas will be used primarily for training, it will also be used for environmental research in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Science and Technology and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). These funded studies would contribute to covering the R56-million-a-year running costs of the vessel (excluding cadet training costs), reports Engineering News. Mokhele said the charter business model would allow Samsa to meet all the financial needs of the training vessel.

Several modifications were made to the SA Agulhas for her new training role, including the addition of radar and navigation technology as well as expanded workshop facilities.

During three decades of service, SA Agulhas travelled about 1.5 million kilometres and made a total of 158 voyages. Her replacement, the SA Agulhas II, arrived in Cape Town on May 3, after a month-long journey from the STX Finland Rauma Shipyard. The new vessel took over from the 34 year-old SA Agulhas in supporting and undertaking research in Antarctica and on Marion and Gough islands.