Navy honours a tradition as minesweepers enter Knysna Heads
Jul 11, 2007
Two minesweepers of the South African Navy, SAS Umkomaas and SAS Umhloti honoured a long-held tradition this past weekend when they sailed through the Knysna Heads and into the waters of Knysna Bay.
The two River class minesweepers berthed at Thesen’s Jetty where they became part of the attractions at Knysna’s annual oyster festival.
Visits to Knysna have become something of a naval tradition, particularly since Knysna was deregistered as a port in 1954. The navy periodically undertakes surveys of the difficult entrance channel between the heads and ships of the navy including mine counter-measure vessels and strike craft have continued to sail through and into the estuary, the Algerine class minesweeper SAS Pietermaritzburg having become the largest navy ship to do this honour only a year before Knysna ceased being a port.
SAS Pietermaritzburg was later converted into a training ship.
In respect of this tradition the town of Knysna ‘adopted’ the mine-countermeasure flotilla in 1989, further cementing the close ties between the former port and the navy.
Also attending Knysna’s annual oyster festival was the South African Navy Band, which paraded along the town’s streets and later that evening gave one of its world-renowned performances at the Knysna Quays on the waterfront.
The crew of the two minesweepers made use of the opportunity to assist with various upliftment programmes among the local community.
SAS Umkomaas (M7001) and SAS Umhloti (M7004) are both River Class mine countermeasure vessels. Umhloti was built in Durban at the Sandock Austral shipyard and commissioned in 1981, while Umkomaas was built by Abeking & Rasmussen in Germany the same year and fitted out in Durban.
Due to the UN arms embargo then in place the four ships of this class were initially described as research vessels and given the names NAVORS I – IV (which means ‘research’) while being placed on the Durban registry and flying the South African flag instead of the SAN ensign.
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