The 33-year-old vessel, SA Agulhas, is preparing for retirement from polar expeditions in March 2012.
The vessel will only be used closer to shore after retire- ment and it is insurable for another two years until 2014. The decision on how to use it after disposal lies with the prospective owner.
“A number of government entities have expressed interest in acquiring the vessel and discussions are ongoing,” said Department of Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coasts communications director
The new SA Agulhas II vessel, which will replace SA Agulhas, costs
R1.3-billion and will start duties in May 2012. It is expected to be complete, in March next year and will be delivered to South Africa from Europe, in April.
The new vessel is being manufactured by global shipbuilding group STX Europe. The construction work of the vessel started in April, and the expected completion date is March 2012.
The retirement of the SA Agulhas is a sad chapter for the Department of Environment but it had to be replaced, as it was built for a different era. It was initially built as an icebreaker and the science capabilities were added on later, said Nqayi.
“The new vessel is a custom-made research platform that will include the necessary modern facilities to make the voyage comfortable and safe,” he concluded.