Maritime museum is a Durban treasure

DURBAN  – One of the main attractions at Durban’s maritime museum on the Esplanade is the former harbour and salvage tug, JR More.

Providing everything goes to schedule, JR More will once again slip her moorings today and move across the harbour on a journey to the repair yard for an appointment with the floating dock of SA Shipyards, for a much-needed hull inspection and general refit.

The tug is overdue for this and is looking sad and weary after many years out in the sun and rain of Durban harbour. Once she comes off the floating dock, however, we can expect to see a real transformation, with rust removed, new paint applied and new decking fitted.

There are few places where visitors can have a real hands-on experience of small ships, as is the case at the Port Natal Maritime Museum, where in addition to JR More the museum has on exhibit the former SA Navy minesweeper SAS Durban, as well as a former Port Elizabeth and Durban harbour tug, Ulundi. The latter is on the hard, ie not in the water, and will never be able to go for dry docking, so all repairs and maintenance are being done at the museum, where a large amount of new steel plate has been fitted, replacing rusted sections.

More needs to be done and hopefully this work can be carried out in the coming months.

The minesweeper urgently needs to go to a floating dock and it was planned for her to accompany JR More. The contract had been awarded following a successful tender programme and then the shipyard concerned inexplicably backed out by cancelling its acceptance of the contract, thereby delaying the naval vessel’s visit to a dry dock. A new tender now has to be advertised and the process followed through, which means a delay of possibly some months.

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Tug JR More on Durban Bay. Trevor Jones

The excitement visitors experience when visiting the museum and discovering that they are able to clamber into almost every nook and cranny of the tug and warship is palpable. These include visits to the engine rooms, where the giant steam and diesel engines can be inspected at close hand. The boiler room in the tug is also inspiring, with steel walkways allowing close inspection at all levels.

The wheelhouses and bridges of both vessels are also a favourite of visitors, looking out across one of the world’s busiest harbours, and only metres from the TNPA tug basin where some of the most modern tugs in the world are in service – all built in Durban.

So if you happen to look across the bay today, don’t be surprised to see an elderly-looking tug being assisted across the waters. Stop and admire a scene not often available and maybe even offer a salute to one of Durban’s institutions.


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