November 18, 2022

Onboard the MV Bangus

“Do you want to go home?” a doctor in the port of Cape Town asked an ill, 25-year-old rating Lungisani Ntobela. “No, I want to finish my contract, I want to go back to the ship,” Ntobela replied, with quiet determination, which he did as soon as he recovered. Ntobela is one of the ratings onboard the Torvald Klaveness’ MV Bangus as part of the Klaveness Manpower Development (MDP) in collaboration with the SAIMI managed National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), a programme which has seen countless young lives transformed through quality maritime training and presents them with opportunities they would have otherwise had no access to.
Ntobela and his fellow countryman and NSDP rating Minenhle Gida, 24, both from the Ugu District in Port Shepstone, KwaZulu Natal, are the only two South Africans aboard the CLEANBU vessel which is docked in Cape Town Harbour destined Durban later this month. They have both been on board since March 2022 honing their skills as deck crew on this state-of-the-art combination carrier. 

The MV Bangus is one of eight of this class of vessel managed by Klaveness Ship Management and owned by Klaveness Combination Carriers, the only company in the world with the capability to carry oil, chemical, and bulk cargo in its seven holds which boasts the ability to undergo wet/dry conversions while at sea for the different cargos.

The first interaction the visiting team from SAIMI and the delegation from SAMTRA had with Gida was as he was keeping a watchful eye on the fresh provision being loaded onto the vessel. With a big smile he welcomed us onboard, signed us in, and had a colleague escort us to the captain’s offices.

“The (MDP and NSDP) programme was quite foreign to us until it was introduced to us at school by Mrs Lyn Bruce,” recalled Gida, “we saw six guys become engineers as part of the programme, and that made us eager to join.” This is when Ntobela and Gida first became aware of the NSDP while they were learners at Mthusi High School together. Ntobela and Gida were part of the 2nd and 3rd batch of recruits from Mthusi High School as future ratings in the Klaveness fleet through the MDP and NSDP. 

Klaveness Ship Management has collaborated with Chief Inkosi Xolo, Network Action Group and the Impande Foundation in identifying the families with youngsters having the right attitude who might be eligible for a career at sea.  Lyn Bruce, the project coordinator for Klaveness Ship Management, has administrated this on behalf of Klaveness Ship Management, who has identified the community in KwaZulu Natal as a source for future seafarers.  She has been instrumental in recruiting and inspiring young people from this region to seek a career on the ocean.

Gida and Ntobela are two of four cadets who were enrolled in 2019, and they are now serving as Ordinary Seamen alongside 20 other crew from the Phillipines and Romania aboard the vessel. “It is amazing to work with people from different cultures, it is very nice to learn from them,” Ntobela remarks.

In their seven months onboard the MV Bangus they have seen their fair share of the world. Boarding first in Cape Town they have since travelled to Argentina, Brazil, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Bahrain, Fujairah, and Oman among other countries and are now on their way to Durban where Gida will disembark, but Ntobela has extended his service until January.

Gida has identified his dream job on board, he wants to be an electrician after learning of the trade from his crew mates. While on board the MV Bangus they have been exposed to a myriad of different roles on deck, and when not working and training on deck they serve on the bridge as lookouts.

This is where Ntobela has identified his goal of becoming an officer. “As for now I don’t know if that will happen because I did not complete my schooling, but if I get a chance to go back to school and finish my studies I would do it. I would love to be a deck officer or a navigator.”

Gida believes that the MDP and NSDP has benefitted both them and their community in a truly positive way, “back home we have become good examples to the other kids. We have shown that we have a well-paying permanent job at a young age and can conquer the idea of not having job opportunities.”

“Our family are so happy and proud of us, they see us like soldiers,” Ntobela adds.

While both the ratings intend to keep pushing forward with the programme with their future goals in mind and the short-term goal of being promoted to Able Seaman, they are relieved that it isn’t all work onboard and that on Saturdays the crew have activities together such as playing basketball, table tennis, keeping fit in the gym, braais, and swimming in the ship’s pool. Not to mention feasting on the “great food” prepared for them by chief cook Jermelito Alagon from the Philippines which includes courses of sushi, soup, and delicious stews.

Morale is high on the MV Bangus with ship’s Captain Mugurel-Gabriel Cretu explaining that there are two types of ships; a happy ship, and an unhappy one. Turning to a third Officer Cretu enquires, “and what sort of ship is this?” With a quick response of “A happy one!” they share a laugh that obviously the third Officers shore leave has been approved.

Captain Cretu is quick to share a joke or two with the South African ratings, throwing his arms around their shoulders while posing for a photograph. He has nothing but praise for these two young men who are part of the National Cadet Programme, remarking about how well integrated they are and co-operative with the crew.

Walking back across the deck to disembark, being escorted by Ntobela, one could sense him walking tall with a great pride as he led over the holds and to the gangplank. He had the air about him of a man that, through this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity thanks to the NSDP and KSM, had found his calling as a seafarer.

Image Caption: Nothando Minauge (SAIMI NSDP Administrator) Minenhle Gida, Lungisani Ntobela, MV Basngus Master Captain Mugurel-Babriel Cretu, Pieter Coetzer (SAMTRA Training and  Development Manager), and Emile Silvis (SAMTRA Engineering Lecturer) on the bridge of the MV Bangus. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

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Issued by SAIMI