Port Elizabeth: 26 March 2017
South Africa’s dedicated seafarer training vessel, the SA Agulhas, fresh from a three months long research and training expedition to the Antarctic region, proved the star of the show at the 2017 Nelson Mandela Bay port festival at the weekend after attracting a crowd estimated at no less than 6 000 people by midday Sunday.
“Clearly, this ship is becoming popular among the people. We’ve seen quite a number since yesterday (Saturday) morning at 10 when we opened the doors, and today will be not different by the look of things,” remarked a ranking official who preferred not to be named on board the SA Agulhas.
At the time, throngs of festival goers of all ages were already lined up along the vessel at more than twice its length.
The SA Agulhas was part of a “People’s Port Festival” a two-day annual event sponsored and hosted by South Africa’s ports authority, Transnet’s National Ports Authority (TNPA) that kicked off on Saturday morning with various activities ranging from sports (water and land based), ship tours, cruises to food, music and edutainment and comedy shows.
The port festival is held annually in rotation at all the country’s nine commercial ports to give local communities an opportunity of interacting with some of its activities.
The SA Agulhas, still warming down from its three month’s research and training expedition off Cape Town to Madagascar and the Antarctic region with a group of Indian scientists and about 30 South African cadets onboard in December to March, joined in the festival after docking at the port of Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay) a fortnight ago.
At the start of the show on Saturday morning, the entire expedition crew including the cadets, minus the Indian scientists; were on hand to show off the vessel to thousands of festival goers who queued up on the quay alongside the vessel for almost an hour before the vessel opened its doors for a six hour show on each of the two days.
The tour on board included a brief presentation by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) about the current utilization of the vessel as a dedicated seafarer training ship since its acquisition by the maritime authority from the Department of Environmental Affairs some six year ago.
From here festival goers were taken up through the vessel for a tour lasting about 15 minutes at a time. Despite the steep staircases, festival goers, several with children – some as small as months old – seemed unable to miss out on the opportunity!
On Saturday, an estimated 4500 people had gone through the vessel while more were queued up quite early on Sunday morning, not for a glimpse, but a full ride on the vessel.
For a typical tour experienced by an estimated six thousands people these past two days, Click Here.