Christening and naming of the new polar vessel
The new South African polar research and supply vessel was officially christened and named today in Rauma, Finland by the Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Nosipho Ngcaba.
“As South Africans and specifically as the Department of Environmental Affairs, we are proud to celebrate the launching and naming of the S.A.Agulhas II as our new Antarctic research and supply vessel. For South Africa this represents a major investment and signals our commitment and intent in contributing to the understanding of the Earth as a functioning, integrated unit,” she said.
“We recognise that with the oceans covering more than 70% of the planet’s surface, understanding the oceans is key to understanding the Earth. For similar reasons South Africa remains committed to its research and management of the South African Sub-Antarctic Island Territories of Prince Edward and Marion Island; and to ongoing work on the South African Base on Antarctica.
“Understanding the functioning of the Earth System cannot exclude the oceans, and the southern oceans and Antarctica provide an ideal environment to focus on the natural dynamics of earth, ocean, atmosphere and space. We, like many other countries, believe that the secrets of the Earth functioning becomes more apparent as the vast scale of the southern oceans and the Antarctic continent combine in the absence of large human populations that so often obscure the workings of nature with the necessities of modern life,” she said.
For South Africa, the agenda for investing and understanding the southern Oceans, Antarctica and the Earth system begins with contributing to the wellbeing, livelihoods and security of South Africans and our neighbours in the region.
South Africa lies between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and is under the influence from the southern oceans around Antarctica. While the country has several neighbouring countries to the north, to the south, the oceans are uninterrupted until Antarctica. Its trade links, historically and presently, are overwhelming accessed through the oceans. Our agricultural wealth is maintained though our weather and climate, which are influenced very significantly by ocean processes on either side and below the country. Our ocean and coast biodiversity includes corals; mangroves; seagrasses; rich fish diversity; seabirds, seals and whales. We share these and our ecosystems in general with the open oceans and Antarctic environments.
For South Africa environmental management and forecasting cannot occur within our terrestrial and oceanic borders only. This ship will support and undertake research to understand natural processes, measure human and pollution impact and document biodiversity. The aim of these endeavours will be to describe the present condition of the environment and contribute to forecasting possible future conditions of the environment. This information is critical to optimise the planning for the conservation and wise use of the ocean but is also required to determine the natural threats that may arise from the ocean or weather through climate change.
With such exacting objectives the Department of Environmental Affairs conceptualised a ship that must be far more than a research and supply vessel. It had to ferry a large number of passengers, food, supplies, vehicles and helicopters, and flammable fuels. Our ship also had to have significant research capacity which must be flexible enough to accommodate varying research needs in the harshest of ocean conditions.
“I am glad and appreciative that the design and construction teams did in no measure shy away from this challenge; all reports commend the ingenuity with which you embraced the task. Not only have you created a ship that meets these requirements but the ship meets the safe return to port requirements. This is important, as before complementing any other feature, we have the peace of mind that our brave men and women are on the safest of vessels,” said the Director – General.
She further stated that “through the pioneering design, development and construction of this vessel I must acknowledge our partners in STX Europe and Det Norske Veritas who contributed in the technological innovation. Our National partner in the form of The South African Maritime Safety Authority also played a key role, as did our current ship management service provider Smit Amandla Marine, who availed their experienced staff. It is to the credit of all parties concerned that the Department was able to meet the requirements without compromising the safety of Passengers or Crew.”
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