ALTHOUGH their experiences differ, seafarers agree that the voyage at sea is a rewarding and challenging lifelong career opportunity.
Several speakers recently shared their journeys at the Day of the Seafarer celebrations in Gqeberha, which was hosted by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), in partnership with the National Department of Transport, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and Transnet.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) launched the first Day of the Seafarer in 2011, to focus the public’s attention on the contribution made by seafarers to the global economy. The day is celebrated globally, and this year’s theme was, “Your voyage – then and now – share your journey”.
Sharing his journey, Master of the AMSOL tug SA Amandla, Captain Simon Radebe, said things had changed a lot since he started his cadetship in 1999 in South Africa, as one of the very few people of colour, coming from a township environment.
“It was a completely new environment, but you learn to adapt and learn fast that the maritime industry is actually alive. It is not just a job where you work and go home; it is a very rewarding career.
“It does have its challenges, especially being away from family, and it is important to be strong mentally. The person next to you is not just a trainee officer but your brother or sister,” said Radebe.
Third Navigation Officer, Nothando Minange, who currently works for SAIMI as a coordinator of the National Seafarer Development Programme, said working at sea does challenge seafarers both physically and mentally.
“I knew the struggle would be worth it.
“Being a cadet can either make or break you because you are moved away from your comfortable state, travelling with strangers far away from home,” Minange said.
However, at sea is also the place where you can achieve great things and go on a journey of self-discovery, Minange added.
“I can testify that I learnt a lot in the maritime industry, thanks to good mentors like Captain Radebe. I became self-aware as a female in the maritime industry and remain fearless.
“The industry will build your character, and you may have a few more lows in the training stages but I can confidently say that I discovered my true self at sea,” said Minange.
SAIMI coordinates the National Seafarer Development Programme which has to date trained 298 cadets, with some of these qualified cadets now working for international shipping companies. SAIMI CEO, Odwa Mtati, said the employment of South African seafarers remains a challenge.
“The maritime industry is in competition with all other sectors of the economy, and therefore seafarers do not have a guarantee of employment once qualified.
“As the custodians of the National Seafarer Development Programme, SAIMI is working with TETA and the Department of Transport to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme. This will enable us to present a more agile programme that responds to challenges in the environment,” said Mtati.
Department of Transport maritime policy development and legislation director, Chuma Mphahlwa, said recognising the contribution seafarers make is important since almost everything we use in our daily lives is brought to us by seafarers.
Mphahlwa stressed that it was important for South African seafarers to remain gainfully employed and he applauded their commitment and selfless service at sea.
SAMSA Port Elizabeth principal officer, Thandi Mehlo, said South African seafarers work in all parts of the world.
“This big seafarer complement in South Africa confirms that we are indeed a seafaring nation. It is important that we provide support to youngsters to get to international markets.
“Currently with the Russia/Ukraine war there is an opportunity for South African seafarers to be placed on international ships around the world,” said Mehlo.
– ISSUED ON BEHALF ON SAIMI