May 12, 2020

US maritime students visit SA shores

AFTER a whirlwind visit to South African shores, 19 cadets from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy returned to America armed with invaluable knowledge, more than a few memorable adventures, and a different perspective on the global maritime industry.

The students, who were hosted by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), kicked off their three-week tour in Nelson Mandela Bay with a visit to the high-tech Port of Ngqura.

The academy’s South African-born international maritime business lecturer, Dr Portia Ndlovu, says while the impact of Industry 4.0 was part of the reason for the students’ visit, they also needed to become part of the “global respect train”.

“As such, students at the academy are not only exposed to experiential training, but also to the different cultures they are likely to encounter along their career path,” she says.

“The global maritime family is expanding all the time, and it is vitally important to understand the different cultures that they may encounter.”

From Ngqura the students were taken to the Siyaloba fishing academy to observe fishermen learning basic sea survival skills and also met a “squillionaire” (who made his millions from squid fishing and processing!).

After that, it was a quick flight to Cape Town where a diverse array of activities awaited the eager-to-learn cadets.

Writing on their trip blog (, group member Tristan Romano was especially impressed with a radically different maritime experience – what to do in the event of a helicopter crash.

“Today we did a very fun thing. We got up early to go the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). For four long hours we watched safety videos, but at the end we got to go in a pool. Not just any pool. We did a helicopter water crash simulation.

“Organisers put us in a helicopter, dropped it in the water and, when it went fully under, we had to escape. Everyone made it out in one piece, maybe a little water in the ears, but it was a good time.”

For the exercise at CPUT’s Survival Centre cadets were strapped into seats in a shell modelled after an actual helicopter cockpit and cabin. The shell was then dropped into the training pool to simulate a water landing.

Another of Romano’s highlights was a visit to STC-SA’s maritime training centre.

“STC-SA offers ship simulation training. Think of it as a video game for adults who want to master the skills needed to navigate a large vessel, but instead of competing against friends while sitting on the couch at home, trainees are sitting in a room that resembles a ship's bridge. This isn't a game, it's serious business.

“Participants learn to manoeuvre ships in different environments and get to feel the effects of various wind, current, and weather conditions. The trainees practise navigating ships through passages and into harbours.”

But the trip was not a case of all work, no play. The cadets also visited the beach at Camps Bay where they found the waves too daunting to chance a swim, went shark cage diving, visited a game reserve and tasted South

African cuisine. Sunday being a traditional day of rest, the cadets enjoyed meeting other sea cadets at Cape Town’s Sailing Academy, followed by a traditional South African braai.

“It was truly well done and memorable, especially with the Admiral serving us the meat,” Romano writes.

Commenting on his views of South Africa in general Nick Zaia, one of the Massachusetts-based academy’s senior students and tour leader, says: “It has been a fun mix of business and play. The culture is different than most would believe.

“It isn't animals running through the streets but more of an upbeat buzzing city full of potential. Potential is something that keeps coming up in all of our meetings and presentations.

“Although South Africa isn't a booming country yet, one day it will be!”

Trip coordinator and SAIMI’s National Cadet Programme manager Yvette de Klerk says the focus of the tour for both parties had been to learn from each other and explore the possibility of future exchanges of expertise.

“SAIMI plays a much-needed linking role between industry and roleplayers in maritime research, education and training, and we also help to facilitate international and continental cooperation. So, being able to support professional development and share our advances with international visitors is a big part of putting the African maritime sector on the global map.”

About the author

Issued by Issued by Good News Lab PR Agency on behalf of SAIMI

SAIMI CEO: Odwa Mtati – 082 783 6810 Good News Lab: Kim Edwards / 073 236 4351 / 041 582 2684 /

More Articles

July 28, 2023

South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) hosted a successful Maritime Winter School Awareness Programme

South Africa has been at the center of a surge in interest in respect of sea-going careers. The South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) in line with its mandate and role as advocate and coordinator of skills development in the maritime sector has initiated a new pilot programme. This is an ongoing exploration at testing the waters in ensuring that the South African system is strengthened and therefore ready to be able to respond to these opportunities that are coming into the Country.