The lovely cruise ship Seabourn Sojourn.    Wikipedia Commons
The lovely cruise ship Seabourn Sojourn. Wikipedia Commons
DSSV Pressure Drop in her days as NOAA McArthur II.     Wikipedia Commons
DSSV Pressure Drop in her days as NOAA McArthur II. Wikipedia Commons
DURBAN - There’s certainly been a lot of things taking place in our ports and shipping lanes at present - far too many to ever cover here, but sufficient to remind everyone of the role of the maritime industry.

Last week Durban saw the visit of the French naval ship Le Malin, which was mentioned in Network last week. The little ship, a converted trawler turned naval patrol vessel and research ship, spent a number of days in port at O berth on the T-jetty until sailing on Sunday.

Le Malin is now in Port Elizabeth and on conclusion of that visit, she will head for Cape Town where again she will remain for a number of days.

Keeping the naval ship company here in Durban on Saturday was one of the most luxurious cruise ships in service. Seabourn Sojourn took up the N-shed berth while her passengers went ashore on excursions around the city and to nearby game parks.

The 32364-gt ship, all 198m of her, is the flagship of the Seabourn fleet and despite her size, she carries a maximum of just 450 passengers - that’s a measure of the degree of luxury afforded those on board. Launched into service in 2010, the ship’s itinerary includes world cruises. If that length of cruise takes your fancy, the next time she sets out to circumnavigate the globe will be in January next year, when she departs from Miami. During her 146-day cruise starting January 4, the ship will visit 62 ports in 36 countries, including once again Durban plus Richards Bay.

On her current voyage, the ship is heading for Cape Town from where she departs on a 12-day South Africa and Skeleton Coast cruise - which means cruising from Cape Town to Walvis Bay and Luderitz. After that, Seabourn Sojourn will return to Durban for an overnight stay of two days on March 12/13, following which she heads off to Madagascar and ports of call across the Indian Ocean.

The next story concerns a ship calling at Cape Town. This is a research ship with the improbable name of DSSV Pressure Drop, which disguises the fact that this was previously the US Navy ship USNS Indomitable (T-AGOS-7). She later joined the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as an oceanographic survey vessel named NOAAS McArthur II.

DSSV Pressure Drop entered service with the US Navy in 1985 specifically for the purpose of conducting underwater surveillance against submarines of the Soviet navy. When the Cold War ended, the ship was deployed with a mixed crew of civilians and naval personnel on counter-narcotics work in the Caribbean region. In 2002, she was decommissioned and one week later taken into service by the NOAA and renamed McArthur II and in the role of a research ship the ship continued until 2014 when the NOAA retired her.

In 2017, she returned to service with Caladan Oceanic to become the mother ship of the manned deep-ocean research submersible, DSV Limiting Factor. The ship and the submersible are currently engaged in the “Five Deeps Expedition” aimed at visiting the bottom of the five oceans.

They have recently completed the first of these, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean at the Puerto Rico trench, 8 379 metres deep.

The submersible is the brainchild and passion of a Texan businessman, Victor Vescovo, who pilots the small submersible on the actual dives. His next deep dive is scheduled to be the 8180m deep South Sandwich trench near Antarctica.

Returning to Durban, we had the tragedy and drama of the fire aboard the Mozambique fishing trawler Tropical I last Thursday which occurred at the ship repair jetty in Bayhead. That has been fully reported, but on Saturday another fishing vessel was in trouble, this time at sea.

The South African fishing vessel Ankoveld (ZR4388) sent out a call for assistance after the vessel, which was at sea off the west coast, began taking in water in the engine room.

It must have been a large leak because without any delay, the crew of 10 took to life rafts as the little vessel settled and disappeared beneath the ocean.

A second company vessel, Atlantic Leader, came to the rescue of the 10 men who were all recovered safely.

Staying in the Cape, the oil rig Deepsea Stavanger was seen offshore of Cape Town in the company of the tug BB Troll.

The rig was responsible for striking gas and light oil condensate in the Brulpadda Field off the coast of Mossel Bay.

This discovery is regarded as strategically important to South Africa and another four wells will be drilled by Total SA who took the chance to return to the Outeniqua Bank to drill for oil and gas.

Their success probably means the saving of the Mossgas refinery and plant at Mossel Bay along with many jobs and renewed anticipation that further employable strikes will be made off the South African coast. Not for nothing was this termed a “game-changer” when it was announced.

These are just a few of the newsworthy happenings on the South African coast, many of which go unnoticed.

- THE MERCURY