Sub museum prepares to surface

Once the Naval Heritage Trust has the necessary funding, the SA Navy’s decommissioned SAS Assegaai will be moved from the synchro lift where it is currently held to its display position and placed on newly built foundations.

The Simon’s Town submarine museum in the SA Navy’s decommissioned SAS Assegaai is another step closer to reopening and welcoming visitors again, nearly eight years after its closure.

At a ceremony at the Simon’s Town Naval Base, on Monday August 14, Damen Shipyards handed over two 7-ton support cradles that will be used to support the submarine at its new location.

Measuring 3.6 metres in length and 9.1 metres in width, these cradles were crafted from steel repurposed from old ship-transport cradles and were assembled both at a shipyard in the Port of Table Bay and on-site in Simon’s Town.

The construction of these cradles started in November 2022.

Retired Rear Admiral Arne Söderlund, a trustee of the Naval Heritage Trust (NHT), a group of mostly ex-submariners who started the museum in 2008, was pleased with the donation of the cradles.

“The cradles are a crucial step to moving the submarine to its designated location,” said Rear Admiral Söderlund.

“Once we have the necessary funding, the submarine will be moved from the synchro lift where it is currently held to its display position and placed on the newly built foundations. The cradles will hold the submarine in place when it takes up its home next to the False Bay Yacht Club and National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Station 10 in Simon’s Town,” he added.

The intricate operation would involve the use of multi-wheeled hydraulic lifting platforms to carefully shift the 700-ton submarine onto its foundations.

“These have to come from Gauteng and the move will cost about R1.7 million. Whilst we are raising funds for this, it is a slow process and we urgently need at least R500 000 still,” he said.

Rear Admiral Söderlund told the Echo that they hoped to make the move sometime between February and April next year.

“The lifting equipment might be used in Cape Town for another job scheduled between February and April next year, providing a potential cost-saving opportunity for the move.

“We are trying to find a sponsor who could cover the move for special acknowledgement as well as publicity and film the move (with a big banner on the boat) for advertising as it is a unique operation. We are therefore still dependent on finances,” he said.

In a statement, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, chief of the SA Navy, stressed the ongoing need for substantial funding for the NHT’s project.

“We must all play our part in ensuring that we preserve our unique submarine heritage,“ he said.

Admiral Lobese himself pledged R10 000 from the chief of the navy contingency fund towards the project.

The aim once the museum opened, Rear Admiral Söderlund said, was to create both a naval museum and a museum of technology.

“We hope to promote the sciences amongst the youth and show how they are applied, e.g. how periscopes work, etc., which is why we will also have a display hall. We also plan to have regular school groups and subsidise schools in lower quintiles. We will also work with the Transport Education Training Authority to provide career guidance and are already discussing this with them,” he said