Photos and article by Seaman Martin Venter

On 8 February 2005 the commissioning of the SAS Umkomaas and the change of command of SAS Umhloti were held at S-Berth, SA Naval Dockyard, Simon's Town. The South-Easter blowing 20 knots across the quay did little to dampen the obvious excitement of ship's companies or spectators.

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R Adm H v E Bester arriving at the parade, escorted by Cdr R A M Penn and Cdr G de Voogd.

R Adm Bester returning the salute on his arrival at the parade.

The parade commenced with the arrival of Flag Officer Fleet, R Adm HvE Bester, who was accompanied to the podium by the officers commanding (designate), Cdr Richard Penn (SAS Umkomaas) and Cdr George de Voogd (SAS Umhloti). After the general salute, the Code of Conduct was read by announcer WO2 Lorraine Holthauzen, after which Cpln Fingo conducted the scripture reading and prayer.

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WO2 G F Haywood saluting and LS P E Hlangebi piping as the SAS Umkomaas is re-commissioned.

R Adm Bester congratulating Cdr de Voogd on his newly appointed command of SAS Umhloti.

Cdr Penn was then charged with command of SAS Umkomaas by FOF and instructed to commission the ship. After ensuring that he would perform his duties with zeal and diligence, he ordered the ship commissioned and watched proudly as the national flag and ensign were hoisted for the first time in more than 6 years. On completion of this ceremony, it was the turn of Cdr De Voogd to take centre stage, where he too was charged with command, this time of SAS Umhloti. Given that this is his first command, R Adm Bester then placed the traditional gold "wings" on Cdr De Voogd's uniform, a proud moment indeed.

Once the formalities were concluded, both the new OCs and FOF were piped aboard SAS Umkomaas to enjoy a light refreshment.

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The ship's company saluting as R Adm Bester prepares to depart from the parade.

R Adm Bester, Cdr Penn and Cdr de Voogd onboard the SAS UMKOMAAS en route to the Wardroom for refreshments.

The RIVER class minehunters have been an important asset to the Fleet and have conducted some unusual tasks, including transporting the (then) Vice Presidents Mbeki and Gore (of the USA) along with various VIPs and journalists to Robben Island. In 1991, sister ship SAS Umzimkulu participated as the local platform in an international scientific programme to establish the effects of global warming. Many other interesting tasks are likely to come the way of Cdrs Penn and De Voogd and it is trusted that they will enjoy their periods in command.