Robben Island plagued by ferry woes

2013-08-05 13:44

Cape Town - The Robben Island Museum has spent a hefty R10m on repairs and private boat hire in the past two years due to continuing ferry problems. 

IOL reports that in the past financial year the museum forked out nearly R3.3m on repairs to the newest ferry, Sikhululekile - in spite of spending R26m on a new state-of-the-art craft just five years ago.

This comes on top of repairs of nearly R2m in the 2011/12 financial year, according to Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, who was responding to a parliamentary question by the IFP's Hilda Msweli.

The ferry is designed to carry 800 to 1 200 visitors a day, but has experienced several breakdowns and other problems that have put it out of action periodically since it arrived.

The Dias, an older ferry, has also racked up its own hefty repair costs - R858 573.95 in 2011/12 and R775 726.72 in 2012/13 financial year. It has also emerged that the Dias hasn't been operational since January. 

Robben Island spokesman Shoni Khangala confirmed that only the Sikhululekile is operational. But he said the ferry was big enough to meet demand. The ferry was, however, out of the water for several weeks between April and last month. 

Mashatile also revealed that the museum had spent almost R2.6m on private boat hire when the ferries were out of commission. 

December tourism statistics, released by Economic Development MEC Alan Winde, have shown that the number of tourists visiting the island is declining.

In December 2011, the island saw 7.5 percent fewer tourists than during the same month the previous year.

Last December saw a further drop of 4.7 percent, apparently due to three "bad weather days" which cost the island 5 000 visitors.

Winde has previously called the island "a blemish on our tourism industry". He said that not only does this have an economic impact, but is also damaging to Cape Town and South Africa's tourism brand. 

But Winde conceded that the situation had improved "since 2010, when ferry breakdowns were causing massive travel disruptions", largely because management was now calling on private vessel owners to provide services when the ferry was not operational. 

Reviews of the Robben Island tour on the international tourist website TripAdvisor range from glowing to terrible. Many complained that the ferry was either late or cancelled, and some also said it was difficult to get a refund after a cancellation.

Read more on:    robben island  |  travel  |  travel south africa

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