SA to break ground in Antarctic Mission on Dedicated Training Vessel

 

Fifty cadets bid farewell to their families and friends on Friday, setting off on board the former invasion ship, SA Agulhas, poised to accumulate international maritime experience and exposure, and breaking ground on an Antarctica expedition.

On route to London, the ship, now repurposed as a Dedicated Training Vessel, will collect 10 more cadets from Ghana and Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire, whose maritime organizations are partnering with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) on the expedition. From London, the vessel will return to Cape Town then proceed to the continent of Antarctica in order to deliver an expedition team that will attempt the first ever winter crossing of that continent. In the process, some important scientific information on that continent in winter that the world does not yet have will be made available and our country stands to benefit immensely from this expedition.

SAMSA has taken transfer of the 30 year old ship from the department of environmental affairs and is using it to conduct practical training for cadets, providing skills which are critical to expanding South Africa's maritime footprint.

New cadet, Ellias Seema, 23, from Limpopo was ecstatic on Friday as he prepared for his maiden voyage. “It has been a good experience training in the maritime sector. With this expedition we are now able to combine the theory and get the know- how on board this international expedition. This industry provides unique opportunities for young people, and we can help build our economy and contribute to our households.”

Western Cape 21-year-old Shuneen Van Niekerk hailed SAMSA for their initiatives. “This is an awesome experience. For young people this is our new hope, and we can even enjoy the experience it offers. We will interact with top notch scientists, engineers and researchers, some who have contributed vastly to the maritime industry. This is an opportunity never to be missed.”

SAMSA CEO Commander Tsietsi Mokhele addressing the media during the send off on Friday said while the ship was a training vessel, “the more we keep it in trade, the better for us”. “It means we can raise funding which we can use for our people.”

Samsa has signed a contract with the Commonwealth until 2014 to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee. The vessel will travel to Ghana, London and then to Antarctica to drop off researchers. The trip would serve to show off the skills of the cadets' capabilities to international shipping lines. In this way South Africa was determined to engage with companies over the skills that the training had instilled.

In London planning is under way for the vessel to be showcased and discussions are to take place with international shipping lines, coordinated by SAMSA for placement of cadets. The training mission forms part of the programme to up-skill seafarers so that South Africans can perform as officers aboard international ships. "We are going to be talking to many shipping lines saying to them: 'These are the ones you can talk to; these are the ones we have, and we have more where these come from,” Mokhele said.

Lydia Sindisiwe Chikunga, deputy minister of transport said the mission to London had three pillars. The first pillar was scientific research researching winter data in the Antarctica, the second pillar was a charitable cause, to support “Seeing is Believing”, supported by some South African charities, and education and training for skilling cadets that needed to navigate the world’s waters, as well as the speciality of navigating the icy waters of the Antarctica - a very rare opportunity even to seasoned seafarers.  

She said the South African Maritime Sector had the potential to have an impact in the fight against poverty and joblessness, and for this the Minister said the government, through the expertise of SAMSA, would among other measures, increase the capacity of our institutions of higher learning to produce more world class seafarers; develop a well functioning and productive cadetship programme that to date had places one hundred and sixty five cadets on foreign ships to complete their training.

However, she added: “Despite all these efforts we still have a large number of trained cadets still waiting for berths to complete their sea-time training; some of these cadets have already given up on their dreams of becoming mariners.”

She commended Mokhele and his SAMSA team for their innovative and creative solutions of addressing these challenges. 

“Through our involvement in the African Union, South Africa is leading the development of an integrated African Maritime Strategy, it is for this reason that we insist that this vessel is not solely for the benefit of South Africa but the whole African continent.”

 

For more information please contact Tebogo Ramatjie on 082 646 6044 or email tramatjie@samsa.org.za or Tokozani Mpepandunku on 072 664 1909 or email tmpepanduku@samsa.org.za;

Issued for SAMSA on behalf of Blue Leaf Communications in collaboration with FBI Communications.

Contact Sam Ngubane on 0785560965

Silindiwe Dube on 0727442865

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