SA Agulhas I berths in PE after three-month voyage
South Africa’s dedicated training vessel, the SA Agulhas I, docked in Port Elizabeth in March after a three-month voyage which took 30 sea-farer cadets to Antarctica and back.
The vessel sailed from Cape Town in December with 30 deck and engineering cadets from the South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) and Marine Crew Services (MCS), accompanied by two training officers, joining the crew on a research voyage chartered by India’s National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research.
The cadets are all enrolled in the National Cadet Programme managed by SAIMI, with the experience obtained on their Antarctic voyage counting towards their sea-time to obtain their STCW certificates of competency.
While the SA Agulhas I was berthed in the Port of Port Elizabeth in March and April, the cadets completed further training towards the STCW requirements, guided visitors on tours of the ship during the PE People’s Port Festival, and attended the SAMIC 2017 conference.
On her Antarctic expedition, the vessel’s first port of call was Port Louis in Mauritius on Christmas Eve where she took on board the team of Indian scientists and five container loads of equipment.
The ship sailed south from Mauritius before heading west of Kerguelen Island and on to Antarctica, carrying out research operations at various scientific stations along the way and in Antarctica before returning to South Africa via Mauritius. “The fact that the Indian government was willing to entrust leading scientists and important multi-disciplinary scientific research to a South African training vessel crewed by South Africans is a tribute to the quality of our mariners and the training offered in South Africa,” SAIMI CEO Prof Malek Pourzanjani said.
“The three-month cruise took the vessel and the cadets all the way down to 68 degrees south where they encountered severe weather. Both the vessel and the cadets passed with flying colours,” said Sobantu Tilayi, acting chief executive officer of SAMSA.
Tilayi said the SA Agulhas I had been chartered for three years by the Indian government for an annual scientific expedition to Antarctica, making a significant dent in the running costs of the vessel while also providing training opportunities for South African sea-farer cadets.
The SA Agulhas I was acquired by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) for training in support of the National Cadet Programme in 2012. SAIMI took over management of the programme from SAMSA in 2015, while the vessel is managed by SAMSA Maritime Special Projects.
The training is funded by the National Skills Fund.
“South Africa needs more world class maritime expertise at all levels,” said Phyllis Difeto, chief operations officer of the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), at an event welcoming the vessel to the Port of Port Elizabeth.
Ongoing collaboration between TNPA, SAMSA, SAIMI and the private sector is needed to ensure that South African mariners receive world class training, and are sought after around the globe, she added.
“The cadets have had the opportunity to observe some of the experiments and see what the equipment looks like and how it is deployed,” said senior training officer Merwyn Pieters.
One of the experiments required the laying of a 4 700 metre mooring cable at a depth of five kilometres on the 40 degrees south latitude. The main buoy is fitted with a current metre and lies 300 metres below the surface.
More than 350 cadets have been trained aboard the SA Agulhas I since SAMSA acquired the vessel from the Department of Environmental Affairs and re-purposed the former Antarctic research and supply vessel as a dedicated training vessel.
The cadet programme enables aspiring sea-farers to obtain the practical sea-time experience required to attain a Certificate of Competency (COC) as either a Deck Officer or Marine Engineering Officer. The COC is an internationally recognised qualification, issued by SAMSA in accordance with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Convention on the Standards, Training and Certification of Watch-keepers (STCW), and opens up a global sea-faring career for these young South Africans.
The programme is a skills development initiative linked to Operation Phakisa which aims to grow South Africa’s participation in the maritime economy. The initiative is managed by SAIMI and financed by the National Skills Fund.
The engineering cadets did watches under the engineer on watch where they assisted with the routine work carried out by the engineer.
The cadets were rotated to get exposure to all sections of the engineering department including the electronics. The deck cadets rotated amongst bridge watch keeping, deck maintenance / ships husbandry, seamanship classes and navigation classes.
A bonus for the cadets was that the doctor on board volunteered to train them on the medical equipment and medicines kept in the ships’ hospital.