At home in charge of big ships

2011-07-30 00:00

SIZE doesn’t matter to three Durban women who have become the first black female marine pilots to obtain an open licence.

Precious Dube, Bongiwe Mbambo and Pinky Zungu are three of five female marine pilots in South Africa.

Their licence gives them authority to guide anything from a small vessels to the biggest supertankers and container ships into port.

The three were among the earliest development candidates introduced by Transnet National Ports Authority in the late 1990s to encourage more black participation in the country’s ports.

Tau Morwe, chief executive of Transnet National Ports Authority, said the achievements of the three illustrate the successes of the port authority’s programme of transformation and employment equity.

Dube, from Inanda Newtown, was the first female to qualify with an open licence.

“The captains of foreign ships can be very sceptical when you’re a woman because it’s not common for them to see a female marine pilot …” she said.

Mbambo (29), originally from Esikhawini on the North Coast, now lives in Glenwood, Durban.

She laughed when she recalled the amazement of the captain of the first vessel she guided in after qualifying as an open licence pilot recently.

“The captain actually took photographs and recorded a video while I was performing my job alongside him.”

Zungu was the latest to qualify and echoed the proud sentiments of her peers.

She said,“I was the only cadet and the only female on a Russian cruise ship where only the captain spoke English well.

“But I eventually befriended another South African woman who joined the ship later and together we focused on achieving our careers.”

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