A PINETOWN woman has become South Africa’s first woman dredge master and is now piloting the Isandlwana, the country’s biggest dredger, valued at about R1 billion. In April, Londiwe Ngcobo, 27, passed as a competent dredge master, and then took her master port operations oral exams.
It has been just three years since she joined the dredging division of the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) – and she is now at the helm of a 4 200 cubic metre vessel. Ngcobo matriculated from Clermont’s Sithengile High School in 2004, where she did maritime studies. “At the time I had limited knowledge of what I was getting into, except that it was marine-related. “I was introduced to the suitcase life in 2000-2001 during an exchange programme, spending half of each year as an exchange student in Leeds, in the UK. The subject grew on me and became my first and last career choice,” she said.
She went on to do maritime studies at the Durban University of Technology and served at sea as a cadet with Safmarine/Maersk for two years. “Work experience with Safmarine/Maersk was nothing like I had imagined. I soon realised it would take hard work to achieve my goals.” In 2009 she joined the container ship Safmarine Nimba as a third navigation officer. “As my responsibilities grew, so did the rewards. I acquired the responsibility of pulling my own watch, maintaining safety equipment and also carried out a cargo operations watch when in port.”
Ngcobo’s work as a dredge master is to ensure the ports are deep enough for ships with big draughts to navigate. “Training people for our marine division, among others, is an integral part of the TNPAs human capital pipeline. Moreover, we are developing women with critical skills who are in demand and internationally marketable,” said Tau Morwe, chief executive of the port authority Tau said this had seen women filling 35 percent of critical roles within the port system. Londiwe Ngcobo, 27, the country’s first woman dredge master, aboard the dredger Isandlwana.
– THE MERCURY (Durban) – (First Edition) – 12 Aug 2014 – p.3