Environment & Science Writer
SOUTH Africa’s new R1.3 billion polar supply and research ship is nearing completion in a Finnish shipyard and has been officially launched and named SA Agulhas II.
It will replace its much travelled but now ageing predecessor SA Agulhas, which is due to be retired next year.
A naming ceremony was conducted at the shipyard in Rauma by the Department of Environmental Affairs’ director-general, Nosipho Ngcaba.
In April, Environmental and Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the vessel was being given a temporary name, pending approval for it to be named in honour of one of the country’s heroes or heroines.
The department was “engaging the family (of the individual) concerned”.
But there was no mention of this in a statement by the department announcing the July 22 naming by Ngcaba.
The 134m vessel is due to make its maiden voyage when it is delivered to Cape Town next April.
It has been designed to accommodate a crew of 45 and 100 passengers, and will be able to steam through metre-thick ice at five knots (9.3km/h).
It will carry cargo, fuel and two helicopters, and will function as a multipurpose supply, research, expedition and passenger ship, servicing South Africa’s bases in Antarctica and on Marion Island and Gough Island (a British possession where South Africa manages the weather station), while also providing a platform for scientific research.
At the naming and launching ceremony, Ngcaba said the vessel “signals our commitment and intent in contributing to the understanding of the Earth as a functioning, integrated unit”.
Ngcaba said the SA Maritime Safety Authority had played a key role in the project, as had the department’s ship management service provider, Smit Amandla Marine.