Submarine open days turn ugly over delays
Tempers frayed and tensions rose as hundreds of people who had queued for hours to see the SA Navy's attack submarine in Port Elizabeth harbour were turned away yesterday.
A few hotheads became aggressive after the long wait.
The SAS Charlotte Maxeke docked on Friday and was berthed near the port's naval base, the SAS Donkin, where it was to be open for public viewing between 9am and 3pm on Saturday and yesterday.
But the submarine was relocated to another berth on Saturday, causing a three-hour delay. This led to a lot of sightseers being turned away on both days.
Lieutenant Gert van Staaden, of the Port Elizabeth naval cadet base, said port control had ordered the relocation of the submarine because another ship was due to dock near the naval base.
"Moving the sub is not a simple task and takes time," he said.
In addition, a pontoon, which keeps the vessel from colliding with the side of the quay, had to be put in place at the new berth.
"The submarine was moved at 10am and was open to the public again at 1pm," said Van Staaden.
"A decision was taken to issue tickets to people, some of whom had been waiting for many hours.
"There were about 100 [people] left at the end of the day and they were given tickets and instructed to return early on Sunday," he said.
The tours finished at 7pm on Saturday.
But frustrations in the queues arose again yesterday, when scores of ticket holders, some of whom were said to have brought others with them, arrived later than requested and demanded to be taken to the front of the growing queue.
Harbour Master Rajesh Dana said the relocation was in the interests of public safety because another vessel had docked nearby, causing "heavy truck movement" .
"We were also completely overwhelmed by the public interest. Adding to the logistical challenges was that only 10 visitors could go on board at a time.
"To avoid people standing for hours and not getting on board we closed the gates early."
Dana said improved public access would be introduced as soon as possible.