South Africa’s ports under the custodianship of Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) rolled out an array of activities to mark World Maritime Day on Thursday, 26 September.
Created by the United Nations (UN), via the International Maritime Organization (IMO), World Maritime Day celebrates the international maritime industry’s contribution towards the world’s economy, especially in shipping.
This year’s theme globally, ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’, provided an opportunity for the South African port landlord to reflect on the contributions of women in the sector and to promote its achievements in terms of gender equality in an industry historically dominated by males.
The Port of East London’s industry gathering at Latimer’s Landing included participation from the Buffalo City Maritime Cluster, African Marine Solutions, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the South African Maritime Safety Authority. Representatives of companies such as Safmarine, Mercedes Benz South Africa, BLG Logistics and TNPA shared their experiences as women working in the maritime industry. Guests then enjoyed a short cruise aboard one of the harbour tugs. TNPA and Southern Cross Cruises also provided boat trips for around 200 future captains of industry – local East London children.
“The International Transport Workers’ Federation estimates that women make up just 2% of the global maritime workforce,” said TNPA’s Acting Chief Executive, Nozipho Mdawe. “For Transnet, as the largest and most crucial part of the freight logistics chain that delivers goods to each and every South Africa, women’s development is a priority.
“Today women occupy half (50%) of the top management positions nationally within TNPA, three of our eight commercial ports have female port managers and women now fill 36% of all jobs across TNPA, bringing their unique characteristics to the workplace,” she said.
Ms Mdawe said TNPA would continue to keep the women’s empowerment agenda on the table, as encouraged by the IMO Secretary-General at the International Maritime Organization’s 2019 World Maritime Parallel Event in Colombia recently, which she attended alongside the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula and industry principals. She said it was also an exciting development that South Africa would be hosting the 2020 World Maritime Parallel Event in the port city of Durban next year during Transport Month in October. The South African chapter of the Association of Women Managers in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa (WOMESA), would also be relaunched by the Deputy Minister of Transport by the end of this year, to spearhead the advancement of women as a key resource in the maritime sector.
“TNPA will be calling for membership soon and will be closely involved in the re-establishment of WOMESA to promote gender equity, improve women’s access to maritime training and technology and promote their advancement to key decision-making levels in the maritime sector in Eastern and Southern Africa,” she said.
In further celebration of national Heritage Month, World Maritime Day and National Tourism Month, TNPA also participated at the inaugural Maritime Heritage Institute Conference at Vaal University of Technology this week, held under the theme, ‘Reclaiming our future, advancing our past.’ The event from 25 to 27 September explored and showcased our country’s maritime heritage and related economic opportunities. TNPA’s Captain Naresh Sewnath, Senior Manager Pilotage & Vessel Traffic Services, addressed the event with a message of support and a presentation on the topic ‘Port Maritime History – Legacy, Challenges and Future Prospects’.
Speaking during the busy week for the port authority, Acting CE Ms Mdawe said, “We are reminded of the important role we play as custodian of the South African port system in preserving and building upon the strong history of shipping in South Africa. Yet at the same time, we are focused on carving out a new maritime future that is more inclusive and accessible to all South Africans. This ‘new’ maritime outlook includes a strong focus on the development of women and other previously disadvantaged groups.”
In line with this focus, TNPA’s ports and business units nationally hosted various programmes with key role players in the industry.
At the Port of Durban, GM: Port of Durban Moshe Motlohi unveiled #WomeninMaritime floor decals and Wall of Anchors portraits beautifully drawn by the port’s very own Samukelo Gasa, a Civil Engineer at TNPA.
The Port of Durban also supported the inaugural annual Invest in Maritime South Africa Summit held in partnership with SABBEX and other emerging maritime enterprises. The event from 26-27 September in Durban provided an investment platform to potential enterprises to present bankable projects ready for investor consideration.
At the Port of Richards Bay, the programme included a panel discussion on Transformation in the Maritime Sector, featuring the perspectives of Harbour Master Captain Gugu Dube, Tracy Leah of Sturrock Grindrod Maritime, and commercial fisherman Sherief Khan. Wendy Van Blerk of Bidfreight Port Operations also presented a master class on safety in maritime.
In Cape Town, the Lighthouses and Navigational Systems unit welcomed visitors free of charge to a public open day at Slangkoppunt Lighthouse on Wednesday, 25 and Thursday, 26 September 2019, allowing them to climb the tower and learn more about the rich history and continued importance of this majestic lighthouse that celebrates its centenary this year.
The Port of Mossel Bay hosted a Women in Maritime Business Breakfast, which featured a panel discussion on Opportunities within the Oceans Economy, Engineering, and Oil & Gas Sector, as well as a presentation on Port of Mossel Bay Port Development Future Plans. This was followed by a Port Open Day featuring waterside demonstrations and a port tour.
The Port of Ngqura held a business breakfast and round table discussion on challenges facing women in the maritime industry, led by female industry professionals. Local learners were also treated to maritime career presentations and port tours.
At the Port of Port Elizabeth, TNPA hosted an event at which industry representatives explored topics such as Women in the Bunkering Industry and A Seafaring Career within SAMSA. Various TNPA women spoke about their vocational experiences in roles previously dominated by males, such as marine safety, marine engineering, berthing and vessel traffic control. Bayworld and Extreme Projects presented insights on pollution and its effects on marine life.