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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 10:49 GMT
Robben Island ferry trips resume
Robben Island ferry
Crossings to Robben Island are handled by ageing ferries
Ferry services to Robben Island off Cape Town have resumed after mechanical problems disrupted trips to one of South Africa's top tourist attractions.

One of two ferries plying the route is operating, and officials say they hope the second will resume by Monday.

Last week both broke down - frustrating thousands of visitors, many of whom had booked their trip months in advance.

Robben Island, a UN World Heritage site, is where Nelson Mandela was held for most of his 27 years in jail.

Provincial Tourism Minister Lynne Brown told the Cape Times newspaper: "We can't afford to lose Robben Island as an important tourism attraction."

She called on South Africa's national government to help restore a reliable ferry service.

Crossings between Cape Town and Robben Island are handled by "historic ferries", which used to transport political prisoners under apartheid.

The vessels are about 50 years old, and are said to be struggling to cope with rising numbers of visitors.

But the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says these are only meant to be a temporary measure.

Until last October, two modern high-speed catamarans were the regular way of reaching Robben Island.

But the Robben Island Museum refused to renew the contract of the firm operating them.

Speaking to the South African newspaper Business Day, the museum's head Paul Langa said government had decided to build and operate its own ferries in order to cut costs.

South Africa last year recorded its highest ever level of tourism - an important source of foreign exchange.


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