Women make strides in maritime industry

Johannesburg - Women have been instrumental in driving initiatives nationally in the maritime industry, with several females leading pivotal roles and serving as harbour masters at major ports around South Africa.

One such woman in a significant maritime position is Transnet National Ports Authority’s (TNPA) Zola Nkowane.

Nkowane is executive manager of operations development and performance of ports around the country.

“As women in this industry we bring a different dynamic to operations that have always been male dominated,” Nkowane told Fin24.

“The maritime industry has always been strongly male dominated, but women bring a softer side. Because of the environment and pressures of it, males in management tend to come across as very hard in the decisions they make and are very rigid in their thinking,” she added.

Nkowane said that women offered a different perspective to business and played a more coaching and mentoring role.

READ: Fighting pollution key to unlocking SA ocean wealth

“You can be firm as a leader, but there is a very fine line between being assertive and aggressive. Women tend to be softer in their approach when it comes to decision making and management of staff,” she said.

Nkowane added that her company had a focus on transformation and placing women in pivotal roles around the country.

“Roles occupied by woman were always seen as support services however, now they perform core functions of ports and management around the country,” she told Fin24.

Most recently, it was announced that Shulami Qalinge had been appointed to succeed Richard Vallihu as the first female chief executive of TNPA.

Qalinge is at the helm of the organisation and will provide leadership and strategic direction to over 3 500 employees.

On Women’s Day, Nkowane said there is a group of women who are always forgotten.

“Many women on Women’s Day thank their husbands for support, but there are women who support career women, who take care of career women’s families while they work or are mothers’ of career women. I want to praise and salute them,” she said. 

With numerous females around the country operating ports in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape as habour masters, or deputy harbour masters - women have been see as crucial to the industry and unlocking the Blue Economy. 

As part of government’s National Development Plan, Operation Phakisa's starting point was the vast South  African ocean which had not been fully taken advantage of and is an untapped resource. 

READ: Local shipbuilders tap tech to fight pirates

Operation Phakisa provides the maritime sector with an opportunity, which needs to meet stringent environmental standards. 

Government stated at the time that the ocean has the potential to contribute up to R177bn to the gross domestic product and create just over one million jobs by 2033. 

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