Even SA’s lighthouses have to navigate load-shedding
Load-shedding affects all lighthouses except those that have power supplies independent of Eskom
The “perfect storm” that led to SA’s damaging energy crisis is affecting some of the country’s lighthouses, which warn ship captains of danger along the coastline and serve as a navigational aid.
Lighthouses have experienced multiple outages due to extended and more frequent load-shedding, according to Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
Vandalism has compounded the problem at Cape St Lucia lighthouse, which operates automatically and was stripped after staff doing maintenance were threatened and intimidated.
“Load-shedding impacts all lighthouses except those that have power supplies independent of Eskom,” captain Alex Miya, acting executive manager at TNPA lighthouse and navigational systems, said in response to written questions.
“While all lighthouses are equipped with standby diesel generators, these backup systems are not designed to run continuously or for extended periods and therefore are being affected by the high number of outages.
“Also, lighthouses with halogen lamps can take longer to switch back on after the standby generator starts up during load-shedding. This is because the lamp needs to cool down before switching back on. TNPA attends to all reported outages as soon as practicably possible,” he said.
Though TNPA did not specify which lighthouses have been affected, maritime stakeholders confirmed outages at Cape Agulhas, Port Alfred and Gqeberha.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his latest weekly newsletter that a combinations of factors had led to the country’s energy crisis. These included a lack of investment in new generating capacity, poor power plant maintenance, corruption and criminality, sabotage of infrastructure, rising municipal debt and a lack of suitable skills, which contributed to what he described as “the perfect storm”.
The SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) was aware of the impact on lighthouses.
“Load-shedding has been a contributing factor to a number of outages,” said Pieter-Chris Blom, Samsa head of aids to navigation: sea watch and response. “Status follow-ups are conducted monthly and AtoN (Aids to Navigation) outages noted in our monthly report.”
TNPA said load-shedding was, however, not the only reason for outages.
The St Lucia situation, including a recent fire started by arsonists, is under police investigation.
“We can confirm that the fire that was reported last week was from the Cape St Lucia Lighthouse complex. The remnants of the lightkeeper’s quarters that was vandalised last year, were set on fire. The lighthouse complex was extensively vandalised and damaged in November 2022 after Transnet was forced to abandon the site by members of a local business forum. It is unclear who is responsible for the vandalism or the fire,” TNPA said.
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