Carrying its special cargo of 20 new cadet recruits, the SA Agulhas will set sail to Mauritius and Antarctica today, 24th November 2017, under the command of Captain Mike Barnes.

The cadets, aged between 20 and 27, this week started getting acquainted with the SA Agulhas, an ice-strengthened polar research vessel, built in 1977, was retired from South African National Antarctic Programme research bases, Antarctic service in April 2012, to be replaced by SA Agulhas II, when she was transferred to SAMSA as a dedicated training vessel, with trading capabilities and has once again been making regular trips to the Antarctic.

On this cold journey which will leave Cape Town this afternoon, she will host an Indian based research and scientific team, who are exploring oceanic and climate change experiments. The ship will sail to Mauritius and then head off to Antarctica before returning to Cape Town via Mauritius in three months time.

The 20 Cadets
The 20 Cadets

Ian Calvert, head of Special Projects at SAMSA, said “the voyage was a microcosm of the possibilities for South Africa in maritime development. We are able to use our existing capabilities and expertise to provide training for young cadets.”

“The maritime sector addresses job creation and promotes the country’s maritime interests. Being part of a private public partnership reduces the government cost burden on training. It can also ensure that base skills are aligned to the meeting objectives of ocean economy outcomes.”

Chief Operations Officer for SAMSA, Sobantu Tilayi said: “As SAMSA we are proud to be part of this endeavour to train young people and expose them to new opportunities. We are confident that the cadets chosen possess the steely determination and focus to survive in the Antarctic.

“The knowledge acquired from this cold journey will benefit South Africa’s fast growing maritime sector and the entire world.

“It is through such initiatives we aim to fight the plague of unemployment, create awareness about our oceans and help contribute towards our oceans economy,” said Tilayi.

SA Agulhas - stern
SA Agulhas – stern

The SA Agulhas is expected to reach Antarctica in four weeks. The cadets, fresh from their academic studies are from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Durban University of Technology.

As part of its crew the vessel will have 19 deck cadets and one engine cadet, of which 12 are males and eight are females. The South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) has been appointed to manage the cadets and training operations for the Antarctic voyage.

On board the vessel as well will be two deck training officers, Captain Merwyn Pieters and Steven Paulse, who are both immensely experienced in the operation of the vessel and also travelled on a previous expedition in 2016.

Captain Pieters, an experienced seaman with almost 46 years under his belt working on various vessels, said the cadets were enthusiastic and keen.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for these young people – a trip like this would normally cost over $50 000, and they are being afforded this opportunity to learn under some of the most trying conditions. Between the other training officer and I we are honoured to pass on our expertise and knowledge.

It takes guts of steel to be away from your family and loved ones. For this group, this journey is new to them, and it would come with many new experiences, including building team spirit,” Pieters said.

All of the Cadets have completed Medical Exams, Induction, Designated Security Duties (DSD) and Personal Survival Techniques (PST), required for the long cold yet exciting journey ahead.

Once the working vessel returns the cadets will be expected to complete the Marine Fire Fighting (FF), First Aid At Sea (FAAS) and the Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR) courses in 2018.