Cape Town - With its major ferry out of action at one of the busiest tourist times of the year, Robben Island Museum has been forced to charter private boats to transport visitors to the historic Island.
The 300-seater Sikhululekile ferry has not made the trip across Table Bay since December 6, owing to engine problems, Robben Island Museum senior manager Molefe Mabe confirmed yesterday.
Asked when it was expected to be back up and running, he said he was “not in a position to say”.
With the Sikhululekile out of action, the museum has chartered boats such as Sea Princess, Tigger 2, Nauticat and Condor.
It has also used the Dias and the Susan Kruger, two smaller and ageing ferries. Both take longer than the Sikhululekile to reach the island.
The R26 million Sikhululekile was launched in February 2008, and has since been out of action periodically.
of R3 294 000 was spent on repairing it in the 2012/13 financial year, according to a Parliamentary reply by Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile. A further R775 000 was spent to repair the Dias over the same period.
Robben Island Museum attracts about 350 000 visitors a year, with a peak over the December holiday period. Mabe said visitor numbers had been strong this year, and that the majority of visitors had been satisfied with the experience.
Carla White, spokeswoman for the V&A Waterfront from which the ferries depart, said December was the busiest time of the year.
“We see visitor numbers grow, particularly in the days leading up to Christmas Day, and on December 31. We expect to see a peak in numbers on the last day of the year.”
Repairs are not the only reason the island’s fleet of ferries are at times not able to make the crossing. Bad weather also means trips get cancelled. In response to this, Robben Island management said earlier this year that the museum would explore the option of acquiring “all-weather boats”, which would be able to make the trip even in rough seas.