Parliament hears of SA submarine woes

2010-12-13 14:53

Cape Town - The woes of the Navy's SAS Manthatisi submarine, which has been out of commission for nearly three years, include fuses blown because someone inserted a plug in the wrong socket, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Monday.

"During a switch-over from shore to ship electrical supply, an incident occurred whereby an AC (alternating current) plug was incorrectly inserted in a DC (direct current) socket," she said in reply to a parliamentary question.

"This led to a number of fuses being blown (as with trip switches) protecting electrical equipment onboard from incorrectly phased electrical supply."

Fuses were blown in a shore supply box, and subsequently changes in design and operating procedure were made to prevent a repeat of the mistake, Sisulu said.

"The minor repairs that had to be effected to the outboard switchboard were completed shortly after the incident occurred, in excess of 18 months ago."

The incident was raised a month ago when the Navy's chief director of maritime strategy, Rear-Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg, told Parliament's portfolio committee on defence someone had connected wires "the wrong way round".

He said this had happened because the wires had not been marked properly but added that the person responsible had been disciplined.

Sisulu said the Navy had commenced the unprecedented process of doing an overhaul of the SAS Manthathisi - a five-year-old Type 209 sub-surface combat vessel - locally.

"Many elements of this process are unknown and infrastructure and training will need to be established in order to create a submarine overhaul capability in the country."

The Navy is currently drawing up a list of work that needs to be carried out during the overhaul, which it hopes to complete by 2012.

She qualified the overhaul as "minor", directly contradicting Teuteberg who told the portfolio committee in November that it was a "major overhaul" and "very, very complex exercise".

He also told MPs last month that a dire shortage of submariners had contributed to keeping the vessel out of commission for so long.

The Navy was rather concentrating on keeping two other submarines operational to train new recruits.

In addition, he said, the SAS Manthatisi had a problem with excessive hydrogen build-up in its batteries and sustained damage to plates when it was put to sea during a storm and knocked against the quay of the submarine pen.

There were plans to widen the entrance to the submarine pen.

Currently, the submarine was being housed in the Submarine Battery Workshop in the Simon's Town naval dockyard where it was being trickle charged to ensure that its batteries were maintained at operational levels.

It is to be fitted with new batteries after the overhaul to ensure a lifespan of at least a further eight years.

- SAPA

Read more on:    lindiwe sisulu
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