Fresh from recent dry-docking in East London, the newly refurbished SA Agulhas sailed out of Port Elizabeth harbour this week on a research and training voyage piloting a new programme aimed at growing the pool of employable South African seafarers.
This new chapter in South African maritime history sees a group of 20 deck and engine rating trainees and three cadets gaining practical sea-time towards their international seafaring qualifications aboard the dedicated training vessel owned by the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
The vessel previously carried maritime cadets from Cape Town to Antarctica to London. The pilot project is a first and takes on board rating trainees who are able to climb the ranks from deck or engine rating, up to able seafarer level through further on board training, which will enable them to eventually achieve a Certificate of Proficiency.
The ratings trainees are part of a group of 45 in a pilot project facilitated by the SA International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) and funded by the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA).
Sobantu Tilayi, SAMSA chief operating officer, said: “As part of our commitment to address unemployment, this rating training provides a wider scope of maritime training and skills development.
“It addresses the gap for career opportunities. Young people would be able to find jobs in areas such as vessel maintenance, its equipment and gear, in rigging and deploying equipment and handling and securing cargo.”
By supporting hands-on aspects of maritime training, the project partners are contributing to skills development as outlined in government’s Operation Phakisa plan to fast-track the growth and development of the oceans economy.
SAIMI chief executive officer Professor Malek Pourzanjani said getting a project of this nature off the ground was the result of strong partnerships and collaboration, involving the public and private sectors and training providers.
“Special mention should be made of TETA as the funder and SAMSA as the vessel owner for providing this opportunity for trainees to gain sea-time,” he said.
Malcolm Alexander, TETA maritime education training and development practitioner, said: “We are pleased to see this project taking shape with trainees able to gain practical experience at sea aboard the SA Agulhas.
“The project expands TETA’s involvement in maritime sector education and training at a practical skill level and is a positive for the maritime sector and oceans economy growth.
“It also grows the pool of South African seafarers available for local and global employment.”
The next phase of the project will entail building the capacity of TVET (Technical Vocational Education & Training) colleges to offer training. The current group of trainees are being managed by the SA Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) and the Sea Safety Training Group. Marine Crew Services is also a partner agreeing to place trainees in their managed fleets for further training.
The SA Agulhas will sail along the coast to Cape Town, on charter to the SA Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF), to retrieve data from scientific buoys deployed in coastal waters to monitor the Agulhas Current and its role in climate change.