SA Agulhas vessel tour in EL
The first day of an exclusive open day tour of the SA Agulhas research vessel, a South African ice-strengthened training ship and former polar research vessel, was a day of mixed emotions as over 1 000 guests enjoyed different experiences at the Port of East London on Thursday.
The two-day invite was extended by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to government officials, a thousand Natural Science learners from 40 Buffalo City Municipality schools, university/TVET student, the public, 150 Good Green Deeds volunteers and the Media.
The guided tours of this massive vessel explored the state-of-the-art laboratories, to the bridge and lounge area. The laboratories were a key point of interest for school children, aside from the giant-size of the ship. It provides practical training opportunities for young students in South Africa and other African countries and opens a world of career opportunities and research work.
Many children had to unfortunately wait stuck outside in the sun for several hours while adults were given first preference on board to attend a programme led by the City’s Mayor, Xola Pakati and other government dignitaries. “I am angry at the way our children were treated. To go the entire day without any food and water is beyond disgusting. The children looked forward to having an awesome time but were met with complete chaos and lack of empathy,” said an angry Ronell Hendricks, a mother of a Grade 6 learner from Southernwood primary. According to Zolile Nqayi, spokesperson for the Department of Environment what happened to the children is regrettable. “We take full responsibility for the delays that were caused by the over-run in the Mayor’s programme. Our caterer also sub-contracted and was disappointed by her contract hence the delays in food and water, we will make sure that next year’s programme runs smoother,” said Nqayi.
Although the massive vessel has two entrance points, on Thursday only one was used for safety purposes, and only a limited number of people could climb on board at a time.
The children were asked to step aside to allow for the adults to go on board, a process that took hours from 11am until the last school boarded at 2:30pm. However, the Mayor delivered an informative and inspired speech about the need to explore the ocean’s economy. Addressing volunteers and the media on the vessels’ auditorium, Pakati welcomed all on board. “The SA Agulhas is named after one of the bravest heroines of our nation, Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba. We are confident that the arrival of this ship in our town will serve to demonstrate progress that has been made in the development of women practitioners in the ocean economy. It is with hope that it will also serve to inspire many young girls of our metro to achieve their true potential in all the critical fields of our nation,” said Pakati.
He outlined the plans the city has to take advantage of the oceans economy to ensure that it has gains for everyone. “Whilst we call for the support of the port expansion project, we are happy to report that the port is already a vibrant trade gateway that is involved in all sectors of the economy and is stretching boundaries to meet the needs of industry”.