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Youth to gain valuable maritime training aboard the SA Agulhas

By Liesl Silverman - Jun 1, 2018
Youth to gain valuable maritime training aboard the SA Agulhas

Fresh from its recent dry-docking in East London, the newly refurbished SA Agulhas sailed out of Port Elizabeth Harbour on Thursday on a research and training voyage that will pilot a new programme aimed at growing the pool of employable South African seafarers.

The SA Agulhas will make its first stop in Cape Town, before going out to sea for four months.

This new chapter in South African maritime history sees a first group of 20 deck and engine rating trainees, and three cadets, gaining practical sea-time towards their international seafaring qualifications aboard the dedicated training vessel owned by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

The vessel has previously carried maritime cadets from Cape Town to Antarctica, to London. But this new pilot project is a first and takes on board rating trainees who are able to climb the ranks from Deck- or Engine Rating, up to Able Seafarer level through further on board training, which will enable them to eventually achieve a Certificate of Proficiency.

The ratings trainees are part of a group of 45 candidates in a pilot project facilitated by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) and funded by the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA).

Many of the cadets on the programme were previously unemployed and had no access to training. With the help of SAIMI they will learn invaluable skills and will become qualified deck and engineering officers.

The Agulhas is internationally recognised for assisting researchers and creating a platform for cadets to receive training and sea-time.

Despite its age, at 41 years, the vessel has undertaken many expeditions to South Africa’s base in Antarctica and other research bases.

Sobantu Tilayi, Chief Operating Officer for SAMSA, said: “As part of our commitment to address the high unemployment rate, this rating training provides a wider scope of maritime training and skills development.

“It addresses the gap for career opportunities. Young people would be able to find jobs in areas such as maintenance of the vessels, its equipment and gear, in rigging and deploying equipment, and handling and securing cargo.”

He said that the vessel has two expeditions to undertake this year. One being the buoy replacement and the other is a charter with an Indian scientific team.

“The vessel is well suited for its training role, and its recent refurbishments at the dry dock, is testimony of its strength and calibre,” Tilayi said.

“We are happy to have on board these bright, young men and women who are looking towards venturing into various careers in the maritime sector."

SAIMI chief executive officer Professor Malek Pourzanjani said getting a project of this nature off the ground was the result of strong partnerships and collaboration, involving both public and private sector role-players and training providers.

“Special mention should be made of TETA as the funder and SAMSA as the owner of the vessel for providing this valuable opportunity for the trainees to gain sea-time,” he said.

The cadets, comprising of 9 women and 11 men, will receive two years of training aboard the ship and will learn practical skills that will enable them to become qualified able seafarers.

The youngest cadet, Thabile Mkhize (19), from KZN, said she decided to join the training programme, as she was tired of being unemployed and sitting at home.

Cadet, Delisile Makhaye (26), from Gauteng said “I matriculated in 2009 and have been unemployed ever since. When this opportunity came up, I was very happy that I was going to be doing something new”.

“This training is especially good for the ladies, it will empower us and there are also opportunities to study further” said cadet, Okuhle Mpengesi (25) from the Western Cape.

The South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA), a non-profit company, will be paying the cadets a stipend for their time working aboard the vessel.

SAIMI project co-ordinator, Sam Venter, said “SAIMI put the programme together and designed the course for SAMTRA. It played a facilitating and co-ordinating role, such as sourcing the candidates and finding funding”.