The fisheries research vessel, the Africana, had to be towed into False Bay this week after an on board power failure apparently caused by water in the vessel’s fuel tanks.
The vessel, which has had a fair share of media attention since being handed over to the Navy, was in the process of completing the sardine and anchovy stock survey and had just rounded Cape Point when it lost power. The SA Navy, presently managing the research vessels for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that the SAS Amatola and the SAS Galeshwe had been sent to the vessel’s rescue.
Commander Cara Pratten, SA Navy spokeswoman, said that once an investigation had been concluded and all fuel lines had been checked, the Africana would be back at work by Thursday.
With the media hungry to follow up on this promise, the Africana was once again in the news when she did not sail on Thursday as planned. Commander Pratten was quoted as saying that if all goes according to plan the Africana will set sail again on Saturday afternoon. We shall wait and see.
Parliament also heard many complaints this week about the state of disrepair of the 30 year old vessel, which probably only has another five years of service left. The Department of Fisheries has requested an amount of R600 million from the Treasury to replace the vessel, but the request has not been approved as yet.
This week yet another meeting of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries portfolio committee took place with much of the discussion focusing on the management of South Africa’s research and patrol vessels. It would seem that after managing the vessels since March this year, the SA Navy has now expressed an interest in actually owning the vessels.
Acting deputy director-general of fisheries, Joseph Sebola, was quick to point out that at this point Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had reached no decision regarding the fate of these vessels and was looking at various options – including outsourcing – which would possibly mean seperating the patrol from the research functions of these vessels.
There are some big decisions to be made. Let us hope that the minister can apply her mind to them quickly so that the fate of these extremely important vessels can be settled once and for all.
Failing this, we can expect some more negative news headlines closer to the 31 March deadline!