SA Agulhas takes on new role

2012-07-04 14:00
The SA Agulhas training vessel heads out on its first mission. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The SA Agulhas training vessel heads out on its first mission. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The original SA Agulhas left Cape Town on Wednesday on a maiden voyage in the second role for the 30 year old research vessel.

The ship has been transferred from the department of environmental affairs to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) which will use the vessel to train a new generation of seafarers.

The Agulhas has been renamed The SA Dedicated Training Vessel and has embarked on a scientific training journey from Cape Town to Durban with 32 cadets on board, and another 15 joining the ship in Durban.

Over the next year it will sail to Namibia, Angola, Ghana, Liberia and London. Cadets will be trained in all aspects of maritime skills and will participate in studies into ocean ecosystems, with specific reference to the impact of climate change and the acidification of the ocean.

"In transferring the ship to Samsa, it is our intention to build our partnership in conservation and environmental management and sustainable development of our oceans and coastal systems," Dr Monde Mayekeso, director general of oceans and coast in the department of environmental affairs, told News24.


The ship, which costs R56m a year to maintain, could have been sold after the department acquired the SA Agulhas II, but Mayekeso acknowledged that training was vital to build South Africa's skills in maritime experience.

"Samsa is a key organisation in the management of the national shipping sector and therefore is an essential partner in the objectives of sustainable development of oceans," he said.

Samsa said that South Africans were generally unaware of the value of marine resources and the value they added to the country.

"The issue that as South Africans we've been missing is the fact that we're more of an offshore nation than an onshore one if you consider that the offshore real estate is almost three times bigger than the land mass of South Africa," Samsa CEO, Commander Tsietsi Moheleke told News24.

"Our oceans are actually our tenth province," he added.

The offshore oil and gas sector is attracting lots of attention, but SA does not have the capacity and knowledge of how to exploit these resources, Moheleke said.

"We need oceanic knowledge to be able to explore and exploit the oil and gas. The same sector is also home to marine tourism - we've got a long coastline 3 000km, three ecosystems and no other country has three oceans [Atlantic, Indian and Southern] running along the coastline."

Foreign ownership

Samsa hopes to expand the local commercial fleet to exploit marine resources and the training vessel will boost the country's ability to accelerate the deployment of skills in key areas.

"We need the science; we need the oceanographic knowledge, but in so doing we also need to understand the structures that you use to drill down; the structure that you use to float on the water, so that real estate is therefore very important for marine resources in that manner.

"The question is: 'As we explore and exploit, where shall the skills be coming from?' Where shall the industry be coming from? Who's going to own that and who's going to own the process?" said Moheleke.

He said foreign ownership of resources meant that South Africans would miss opportunities and this could have a negative outlook on the long-term economic growth of the country.

"We are finding that as these things become beneficial with non-South African investment, you benefit the product and its security so to speak, but you lose out on participation in that industry."

Moheleke said that if the value of marine resources were fully exploited in SA, it could become the wealthiest sector of the economy.

"I think if we had to quantify the value of the marine resources in that tenth province and put more money into it, it might end up being the richest province in the country - maybe second to Gauteng if anything at all - but if you aggregate all of those elements; GDP impact and so on, you might find that it's got a lot to say."

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Here is a YouTube video of the training vessel leaving Cape Town harbour:

Read more on:    samsa  |  cape town  |  environment

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