AS the SA Agulhas sailed into Port Elizabeth Harbour from Cape Town yesterday morning, a young Port Elizabeth woman edged the ship up to the quayside.
Marine pilot Xoliswa Bekiswa, originally from Mthatha but now from Port Elizabeth, is one of 34 women on the SA Maritime Safety Authority’s (Samsa) five-day voyage along the South African coastline with an all-women crew.
The Agulhas departed Cape Town on Monday and made an eight-hour stopover in Port Elizabeth yesterday. It left for Durban where it is expected to arrive tomorrow.
According to Samsa chief executive Tsietsi Mokhele, the voyage is a world first, encompassing female captain, engineers and harbour receiving staff, and is intended to showcase gender transformation in the industry.
While the Agulhas was in Port Elizabeth, school pupils were taken for tours and shown how large vessels are operated and managed.
Bekiswa, who has been piloting ships into and out of the Port Elizabeth Harbour since 2008, said she entered the industry after attending the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, where she saw a display by Transnet’s National Ports Authority (NPA).
Since childhood she had been fascinated with the sea. She wanted to study microbiology but was scared of working underwater. Working on a ship “was an incredible opportunity for me to go to sea and be on top of the water”.
Marine officer/operations manager Vania Cloete works for the NPA in Mossel Bay.
She graduated in 1998 after doing maritime studies.
“I was with Safmarine at first and did my cadetship through them. I got my second officer’s ticket and then started with TNPA as a trainee tug-master,” she said. Her job is to bring ships in and out of harbours.
“At the moment I have joined forces with management. I’m the marine operations manager as well as a pilot in Mossel Bay,” she said.
Second navigation officer Rembuluwani Nehgovhela completed matric before receiving a bursary to do maritime studies at the Cape College of Technology in 2004.
“Then I did my cadetship and qualified in 2006,” she said.
She now works at sea for a mining company. The ship is anchored using four anchors. Two of the anchors are dropped forward and two aft.
“Basically what I do is I lay the spread under the supervision of the captain. They use GPS for positioning. It is very much computer-aided.
“I intend doing it for another three years and then want to get my captain’s ticket,” she said.
Second engineer Sibongile Nomala studied in Port Elizabeth at Russell Road College.
Afterwards she qualified as a diesel mechanic and in 2004 she joined Transnet. She then studied at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
“I work on the pilot boat, Orient, the boat used to transport the pilot who docks and sails the ship.”