August 25, 2020

SAIMI Women’s Month Maritime Virtual Discussion

The time for women in the maritime sector to rise is nowNow, more than ever before, women should carve out their paths in the Oceans Economy. This was the message by panellists who participated in a women’s webinar 20 August 2020, hosted by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) in partnership with Women in Maritime South Africa (WISTA) and African Women in Maritime (WIMAfrica) South Africa.

Nwabisa Matoti, Senior Manager: Operation Phakisa Skills Initiative at SAIMI, said the purpose of the webinar was to further the women agenda in the maritime sector during a time of sailing in uncharted waters where everyone is forced to adapt to the new normal during a Covid-19 and post-Covid economy.

Matoti said SAIMI is firmly focussed on promoting equality in the Oceans Economy, in particular by partnering to empower women and youth through increased meaningful participation. “We need change agents; we need initiatives and we need people to support those initiatives. We need to start moving away from only talking and move more towards implementation of initiatives that will empower women within the maritime space. We need to embark on collaborative initiatives with relevant stakeholders in the space to advance our growth as women,” said Matoti.

A great success story of an aspiring young woman who dreamt of owning her own RORO cargo ship – which she encountered some years ago during a visit to the harbour - is Kgomotso Selokane, CEO of Heron Marine.

“When I said this, people looked at me as if I was a dreamer. I grew up in a mining town and had no idea what an ocean was as a child. In addition, becoming a third bunker operator was not foreseeable at the time when I decided to go into the industry. I just decided that my dreams are mine; I am not outsourcing these dreams to anyone else. I never took ‘No’ for an answer. Rejection was not something that was going to deter me,” said Selokane.

Because the maritime sector is so male-dominated, people still find it difficult to fathom that Selokane is a woman CEO of a bunker operator.

“The day I went up a pilot ladder in the middle of the ocean, I was very proud of myself. Over and above rejecting rejection, I also had to reject fear. As women we need to charter unknown waters and swim forward. Even now with Covid-19, it is important to keep moving - swimming like a shark – even if it is just an inch a day,” said Selokane.

There is no doubt that all industries – including the maritime sector – have been greatly impacted by Covid-19 and this is the time when women should show exceptional resilience, said another panellist, Ipeleng Selele, Chairperson of WIMA South Africa.

“Women-owned businesses have been impacted negatively and we need to recognise this and move forward by coming up with interventions to enable us to be resilient as we work towards a new norm. Logistics and supply chain will become a strategic consideration, to ensure that business can continue,” said Selele.

The recessionary climate is also a good time for women to acquire relevant skills, particularly relating to the 4IR, which Selele said is required now, and in the post-Covid economy. Women are critical to all sectors of the economy in South Africa, contributing 50% of GDP despite all the obstacles and inequalities, said Noncebo Sibisi, Business Development Manager of Maersk.

“We as women come with colour to the table whereas our male counterparts generally see things in black and white. We think of all aspects, we are cautious when we make our decisions and we have nurturing skills. As a growing nation the future of the maritime sector is filled with endless possibilities,” said Sibisi.

To attract more women and youth to the maritime sector, Sibisi believes more awareness of the plethora of opportunities in the Oceans Economy should be created. Her advice to interested youth is to do more research on where skills are lacking in the maritime sector.

Colleen Jacka, Managing Editor of Maritime Review Africa Magazine, said 25 years ago it was a very lonely place for women in the maritime industry, and that the industry has come a long way.

“A webinar like today would not have been possible back then. However, I do want to stop writing about the ‘first woman’ doing various things in the maritime sector, since we are now in 2020. I want it to be commonplace for women to form part and parcel of the industry. It is important to also keep in mind that there will only be more space for women in the maritime industry, if there is more space in the maritime industry – we need to grow the industry,” said Jacka.

Tsepiso Taoana-Mashiloane, Director: Maritime Industry Development and Economic Regulation at the Department of Transport, presented the vote of thanks and closing remarks. The webinar was facilitated by Clare Gomes, Chairperson of WISTA South Africa and Executive at AMSOL.

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