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Mystery at the Museum: Why did the SAS Durban sink?

THE SAS Durban, the first ship built for the South African Navy, took on water overnight and has partially sunk. It is based at the Durban Maritime Museum and was recently refurbished. I BONGANI MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

THE SAS Durban, the first ship built for the South African Navy, took on water overnight and has partially sunk. It is based at the Durban Maritime Museum and was recently refurbished. I BONGANI MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 1, 2020

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Durban - Investigations are under way into the cause of the partial submergence of the SAS Durban, a 60-year-old minesweeper that was on floating display at the Durban Maritime Museum.

Captain Justin Adams, acting harbour master at the Transnet National Ports Authority Port of Durban, said the vessel took on water overnight on Monday and partially sank in shallow water. No one was on board.

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Adams said eThekwini municipality had engaged the services of a diving company to investigate the cause and to try to right the vessel. He said there were no concerns about pollution as the vessel was clean and had no oil on board.

In 2019, the SAS Durban and tugboat JR More were refurbished at Southern African Shipyards in Durban. They are exhibits that evoke life at sea.

eThekwini municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said an investigation was being conducted

to ascertain the cause and what remedial action should be undertaken. The city was working together with Transnet Ports Authority and Southern African Shipyard.

Terry Hutson, of Friends of the Durban Maritime Museum, said the museum was closed due to the lockdown. The group alerted museum management last week that the ship appeared to be lower in the water than it ought to be.

“Pumps were installed on the ship recently. Maybe the pumps failed. It is obvious water was entering the ship gradually. The source will have to be traced. The vessel has sunk to the bottom. The area is shallow.

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“Hopefully, it will be pumped dry. These ships have to be maintained regularly,” Hutson said.

The volunteer group was formed after a similar incident in 2011. The SAS Durban capsized on to a tug boat on display. He said the ship had been in a shocking condition.

The SAS Durban is one of the last surviving “Ton” class minesweepers developed originally for the Royal Navy and later introduced in several navies, including South Africa’s. It was the first naval ship to be built for the South African Navy.

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