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Custom-built coastal craft, R/V Phakisa, opens up new research opportunities for South African marine science


Recently completed in Port Elizabeth, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity’s second coastal research vessel, R/V Phakisa, has started work. The vessel is a custom built, 14.5m Legacy Cat commissioned by the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) and built by Ocean Legacy Marine with funding secured from the National Research Foundation, through the Department of Science and Technology.

Moored at the Durban Marina, R/V Phakisa will work out of Durban along the KZN coast as a platform for research institutions in the province. Her crew of two technical staff is hosted by the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) at the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), based at uShaka Marine World.

R/V Phakisa has been specially designed as a research platform and is capable of accommodating and deploying a variety of specialised equipment used for surveying the coastal waters of South Africa’s east coast. State-of-the-art jet propulsion engines with advanced navigational equipment allow for extremely accurate and fine scale maneuverability without the risks posed to over-the-side gear by propellers. The crew use an A-frame and hydraulic winch to deploy and operate heavy sampling gear such as benthic grabs, demersal trawls and water samplers, over the stern. The vessel can stay out at sea over-night, has a cruising speed of 18 knots, can operate up to 40 nautical miles off shore and has a range of approximately 250 nautical miles.

The vessel is custom built to allow remotely-operated underwater camera observation work to be undertaken in difficult, strong current conditions, which hasn’t been possible for marine researchers up until now. This opens up a completely new window to South Africa’s eastern shelf edge. This environment is driven by one of the world’s largest western boundary currents, the Agulhas Current, which transports nutrients and plays a large role in determining climate conditions in the region.

R/V Phakisa has been named in recognition of Operation Phakisa, a presidential initiative to unlock South Africa’s Ocean Economy. The vessel will be available to the South African marine science community on a competitive basis through the ACEP Open Call. ACEP partners in KwaZulu-Natal include ORI, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Zululand and the KZN Sharks Board, amongst others.\




Additional Information:


South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity - http://www.saiab.ac.za/

African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme - http://www.saiab.ac.za/acep.htm

ACEP’s Imida – Frontiers Project - http://www.saiab.ac.za/open-call-projects/imida:-frontiers.htm

Operation Phakisa - http://www.saiab.ac.za/acep-phakisa-ocean-cruises.htm

National Research Foundation – http://www.nrf.ac.za/

South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Oceanographic Research Institute and Sea World - http://www.seaworld.org.za/saambr


Notes to the Editor:

Specialist equipment deployed to conduct coastal research includes:

Remotely operated submersible vessel (ROV),

Multi-beam sonar,

Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler,

CTD – equipment to measure Current, Depth and Temperature at various levels

Benthic grabs

Plankton nets

About SAIAB: SAIAB is a research facility of the National Research Foundation situated in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. It is and an internationally recognised centre for the study of aquatic biodiversity. Famous for its historical association with JLB Smith and the discovery of the enigmatic coelacanth, SAIAB’s houses the National Fish Collection and the Margaret Smith Library which houses the largest collection of books and journals on aquatic topics in Africa. Research focuses on Conservation Biology & Ecology and Molecular Biology & Systematics.

For more information contact: saiab@saiab.ac.za


SAIAB’s Marine Research Platforms:

The African Coelacanth Ecosystem programme (ACEP): ACEP is one of a number of marine and other research platforms managed by SAIAB. The Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (Oceans & Coasts) identified ACEP as a leading multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional programme, as one of the key platforms to be used in meeting Operation Phakisa aims.

ACEP spokesperson: Dr Angus Paterson: 046 6035800; a.paterson@saiab.ac.za

Operation Phakisa is a presidential initiative to unlock South Africa’s Ocean Economy. For more information on ACEP and other research platforms at SAIAB supporting this initiative, please see http://www.saiab.ac.za/acep-phakisa-ocean-cruises.htm

National Research Foundation:

For more information on the operations and programmes within the NRF please visit http://www.nrf.ac.za/

Press Release