A newly spruced up SA Agulhas, the country’s only dedicated national cadet training vessel, is back in the Indian Ocean waters alongside the East London dock, ready for its next major operations at sea this year – one beginning at the end of May 2018 and the other, later in the year.
The second major ocean journey for the vessel, scheduled for about late November, will be its third research and training trip along the Indian and Southern Oceans as far as the Antarctica region, carrying on board a group of Indian scientists as well as new cadets from South Africa.
In preparation for the two operations, the vessel, owned and operated by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), went into dry dock in East London for about a week in late April 2018, after which some major paint work and refurbishment continued once back on water again at the river port in the last couple of weeks.
According to Roland Shortt, Operations Manager: SAMSA’s Maritime Special Projects, from East London, the SA Agulhas will sail to Port Elizabeth on Thursday (24 May 2018) where it will then bunker on Monday prior to commencing with its first operation involving deployment of scientific research equipment to the east coast of South Africa.
The deployment operation will set off from Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) on the 31 May 2018 and finish up in Cape Town on the 16th June 2018.
To catch a glimpse of thework, this blog (The 10th Province) tagged along to see what was actually going on. We also spoke to the vessel’s commander, Captain Daniel Postman, and its all packaged in this 5 minute video below.
A Simon’s Town maritime studies foundation school, Lawhill Maritime Centre, settled atop a hill overlooking the harbor below, where the memorial statue of Just Nuisance stands to sunrise, is besides itself with joy this month, and all with good reason.
The news had broken that one of its former pupils, Nicole Gouvias, now aged 27, (pictured left) had gone on to formally obtain her Master Mariner’s licence in April 2018, thereby becoming the first ever South African female from the school to achieve the top honor in big ships sailing.
And for Nicole, 27, it was not just an entry level licence, but an internationally-recognized Master’s Certificate of Competency (Unlimited) which means she is qualified to command a ship of any size in the world’s oceans.
STS Lawhill Maritime Center has been in existence since 23 years ago, providing 15 to 17 year old students with specialized knowledge and skills in maritime and other fields in their last three years of secondary schooling.
It is the only school in the Western Cape offering two maritime subjects; Maritime Economics and Nautical Science.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) – the country’s agency statutorily charged with, among other things, promoting South Africa’s maritime interests – is among a handful of institutions in both the public and private sectors that has consistently supported the school over the years, mainly through bursaries for youths from previously disadvantaged communities expressly keen on maritime and related studies.
This past week, the school visibly excited about Nicole’s historical achievement, particularly in a maritime sector field where far few women have not only qualified but also thrived as sailors.
To date, South Africa, even though forever a maritime country with a coastline of some 3200 kilometers and an Exclusive Economic Zone measuring some 1.5-million square kilometres over three oceans – the Atlantic to the west, the Southern to the south and the Indian Ocean to the east – has produced a disproportionately low number of female Master Mariners than males.
In fact, the first ever three black female Master Mariners with unlimited licences only emerged in the last three years.
For Nicole, according to the STS Lawhill Maritime Center this past week, her achieving the qualification was a fulfillment of a long held childhood dream of becoming a ship’s captain one day.
She is now one, and is currently serving as Chief Navigation Officer on board container vessels within Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping line.
“She joined Safmarine as a cadet immediately after completing her studies at Simon’s Town School (which she attended from Grade 1 to Grade 12) and graduating cum-laude, from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
“She received the internationally-recognised Masters Certificate of Competency (Coc) in April this year. Doing so was the final step in achieving her dreams of being in command of a ship, as its Master or Captain. As Chief Navigation officer she is currently second in command on board vessel,” said the school in a statement.
Her former educator and currently still a tutor at the STS Lawhill Maritime Center, Mr Brian Ingpen as well as the school’s administrator, Ms Debbie Owen, share their views of the great achievement for Nicole and the school in the following video.
Meanwhile, Nicole, who was away at work overseas this week and therefore not available for an interview, was reported to have attributed her success to her tutors as well as the many retired sea captains who inspired her during their visits to the school.
She told the school: “I always enjoyed the stories told by Captain Schlemmer and the other retired shipmasters and it made me want to go out and make my own stories.
“Having the opportunity to do the maritime subjects at Simons Town School also made University chartwork exercises so much easier.
“I benefitted enormously from the constant words of encouragement of my maritime educators and the time Captain Schlemmer took to help me with chart work helped me be the person I am today,” said Nicole.
According to Lawhill Maritime Center, while Nicole’s career has taken her to many parts of the world – with Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Portugal, China, USA. Argentina, Madagascar and Australia among her favourites – one of her goals is to see more of her own country, South Africa.
“A passionate animal lover, Nicole also enjoys spending her time caring for abandoned animals on her smallholding outside Stellenbosch,” said the school
Footnote: Simon’s Town is home to the harbor located statue of Just Nuisance – South Africa’s only dog ever to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. According to Wikipedia, “He was a Great Dane who between 1939 and 1944 served at HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy shore establishment in Simon’s Town, South Africa.”
An ambitious global initiative to turn decisively the tide against massive volumes of plastics waste entering the world’s oceans around the African continent is formally taking shape in South Africa under the aegis of the African Marine Waste Network (AMWN) based in Port Elizabeth.
The network was established in South Africa in 2016 with the support of government and high education institutions, and boasts no less than 42 member countries in the Africa region.
A year ago, it held its first African Marine Waste Conference in the country.
This year, boosted by new funding from the Norwegian government totaling just over a million rand a month ago, the AMWN has not only already established a scientific plastic waste academy launched in Port Elizabeth a week ago, but is also embarking on a three pronged strategy this month involving scientific research of plastic waste, the launch of a community outreach campaign involving both business and communities, as well establishment of an Africa Youth Network intended to engage particularly young people in an education campaign continent-wide against marine plastic waste and oceans pollution.
According to the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) a leading partner of the AMWN initiative based in Port Elizabeth, the youth network “will enable the youth of Africa to communicate and inspire one another and engage with young people everywhere as well as influence adults, especially leaders.”
The formal launch of the Africa Youth Network is scheduled for June 2018 to also mark World Oceans Day on 08 June.
This latter initiative will be preceded by a number of activities among which will be a ‘plastic industries’ workshop in Port Elizabeth on 10 May 2018. The aim according to SST in a statement, is to extract information that will be used to develop an Education Resource Book for sharing among among schools and similar education institutions throughout the African continent.
“Issues of plastics in the environment and human health are relatively new and have not yet entered education systems as they should have, so the need to build capacity in Africa is an imperative we aim to meet.
“There is no existing curriculum on plastics in African schools or governments. Thus we will be developing curricula and educational output in the form of an Education Resource Book. The Resource Book will be all encompassing of plastics, from A to Z, from raw materials to final product and after use processes. This will include the roles of producers, distributors, retailers, consumers and municipalities.
“We will develop the book in an all-inclusive manner, where we have planned workshops with the plastic industry and education and curriculum experts to help guide us. We shall host the initial workshops in May to promote sharing of ideas and collaboration between different organizations.
“The first will be on plastics industries, where our plan is to gather as much information as we can about the plastics industry. Thereafter we shall host a teacher’s workshop, inviting teachers and education stakeholders from across South Africa and Africa,” said the SST in a statement this past week.
The AMWN marine plastic waste initiative in the Nelson Mandela Bay region (Port Elizabeth) – a city settled to the east of South Africa on the southern part of the Indian Ocean and fast developing into a significant shipping services hub – will also involve the clean up of a major river estuary cutting across the city to the Indian Ocean.
The major plastic waste clean up campaign of the Swartkops River estuary is scheduled to start in Spring, from 15 September 2018.
The idea, according to AMWN, is to establish the region as a centre of excellence through ensuring that it is pristine clean of marine plastic waste in five years, thereby demonstrating the viability and importance of the Africa marine plastic waste reduction initiative.
“By 2021, we (the Nelson Mandela Bay region) can be the cleanest in Africa, the most active, best informed communities,” says the AWMN.
Meanwhile, the British government has heaped praise on both the initiative and the supportive roles played by both the Norwegian government as well as the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, the latter which has taken the lead in oceans studies inclusive of scientific research into environmental management of the oceans surrounding the southern tip of the African continent; the Indian Ocean to the east, the Southern Oceans to the Antarctica region as well as the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Speaking during the formal launch of the AMWN Academy in Port Elizabeth a week ago, British High Commissioner to South Africa, Dr John Wade-Smith said the combination of scientific research, community engagement and business opportunities development was a strategy that provided opportunity for all members of society to engage.
He had particular praise for the Nelson Mandela University for its involvement in the AMWN initiatives. He also shared insights into how Britain was contributing to the global campaign against plastic waste polluting the world’s oceans.
For Dr Wade-Smith’s full remarks, click on the video below.