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SA Navy celebrates 50th birthday of its oldest ship in service, the SAS Protea

The SAS Protea is a survey vessel of the South African Navy, part of the Hecla-class survey vessels, built for the British Royal Navy. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

The SAS Protea is a survey vessel of the South African Navy, part of the Hecla-class survey vessels, built for the British Royal Navy. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 24, 2022

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Cape Town - The South African (SA) Navy celebrated the 50th birthday of its oldest ship in service, the hydrographic survey vessel, the SAS Protea.

It said it was the first time one of its ships had reached this golden sea milestone.

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SA Navy Museum historian and commander Leon Steyn said the SAS Protea was a research survey vessel, and that the hydrographic survey work it performed had, over the years, contributed greatly to the work of the South African Hydrographic Office at Silvermine – crucial to maritime safety.

“In addition to this work, SAS Protea has conducted numerous searchand-rescue operations, has flown the South African flag on various flagshowing cruises, especially during the early 1990s, and travelled south to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to provide scientific and logistical support,” he said.

Steyn said vessels of this nature were usually designed for long service of 30 to 40 years, and that to reach 50 years of military service was an exceptional achievement.

A replacement for the Protea is being built at the Sandock Austral Shipyards in Durban. The SAS Protea will continue in service as a training vessel, even after the new hydrographic survey vessel enters service next year.

Sandock Austral Defence Engineering Systems managing director and retired Rear Admiral of the SA Navy, Kark Wiesner, said: “The programme for the renewal of the SA Navy Hydrographic Survey Capability is under way, with the SA Navy Hydrographic Office at Silvermine and the three Survey Motorboats achieving handover.”

He said the birthday was significant because it was a clear indication of the establishment and sustainment of the hydrographic capability in South Africa, with the issuing of nautical charts and coastal warnings essential for the safe navigation of all marine traffic of South Africa.

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Steyn said the SAS Protea was officially handed over to the SA Navy on May 23, 1972, and cost the government R6 million. The ship was built to commercial standards by Yarrow Shipbuilders, in Scotland, and was 79.25m long x 14.94m wide, with a full load displacement of 2 750 tons.

The SAS Protea was the fifth Hecla-class vessel and was commissioned on May 23, 1972. Picture: Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)
The SA Navy reflected on the history of the hydrographic survey vessel, the SAS Protea, and said it was the first time a ship of theirs reached this golden sea milestone. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
The SAS Protea celebrated its 50th birthday on Monday, May 23. The SAS Protea is the oldest ship in service in the South African Navy. Picture: Dean Wingrin

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