Female high school learners and university students recently experienced a practical taste of the maritime working world and gained vital sea safety skills in a short course sponsored by Siyaloba Training Academy and the South African International Maritime Institute.
The group of grade 11 and 12 learners from Hillside Senior Secondary School in Bethelsdorp and Woolhope Secondary School in Malabar, Port Elizabeth, and marine engineering students from Nelson Mandela University literally “dived in” when they donned life jackets and jumped in the water for a practical water safety drill, albeit in a swimming pool rather than the open ocean.
The course involved a classroom day at Siyaloba’s training facility in the Port of Port Elizabeth, where participants learned about safety at sea, emergency signals and procedures, and practiced what actions to take in the case of shipboard fire, medical emergencies and accidents.
On Day 2, they experienced safety procedures and the operation of safety equipment such as watertight doors in action aboard one of Talhado Fishing’s squid fishing vessels in the port, and then underwent practical training in water safety and abandoning ship in the training pool at Marine Training and Consulting.
Summing up her experience, Hillside grade 12 pupil Siyamthanda Faliso, 18, said: “It was an amazing, eye-opening two days. I have always been interested in the oceans, and I’m even more so now. I can’t wait – I want to just do it!”
Mandela University student Adelaide Karomo, 23, who is studying for her Master’s in the Law of the Sea, said the course had brought her studies to life and the practical safety training and certificate would assist in her future work as she planned to combine her legal, ocean governance and science interests in doing research work at sea.
The participants received accredited certificates in Safety Familiarisation Training from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), which are recognised in terms of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW).
Siyaloba Training Academy managing director Karen Reid said the course had provided the young women with “a practical outcome, in that the certificates received mean they have completed the first step in the training required for anyone working at sea.”
SAIMI operations director Soraya Artman said the initiative came about from a SAIMI women-in-maritime career information and networking event that the learners and students had attended, where Siyaloba had offered to present the free course in order to further enhance their exposure to the world of work at sea.
“Siyaloba has been providing maritime training and related skills development to improve lives in coastal communities for 20 years, and we saw this as a way to add value in a practical, experiential way to what the learners had gained from the SAIMI women’s event,” Reid said.
“SAIMI’s role in enhancing maritime skills development to help grow South Africa’s oceans economy, includes promoting maritime careers and, especially, improving participation in the maritime economy for those previously lacking access, such as women who are globally under-represented in work at sea.”
“The timing is appropriate this Women’s Month and also ties in with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) theme for this this year, Empowering Women in the Maritime Community,” Artman said.
The young women were undaunted by the prospect of seafaring careers being predominantly male-dominated, with Mandela University marine engineering student Erinique Solomon, 23, saying: “There is a lot of support out there for women in maritime, like the initiatives that SAIMI is doing. I am one of only two women in my year and it doesn’t bother me. I just want to work at sea in the engine room or become involved in ship engineering design – the more I learn, the more excited I get about what lies ahead.”
SAIMI intern Sinomtha Gede also participated in the course and said the two days had sparked the young women’s interest in wanting to “learn and do more in maritime”.
“Activities like this definitely add value to getting young women involved in maritime careers because there is an element of fun and getting exposed to a world that is completely new to them,” Gede said.
This week’s course is one of several SAIMI events this year focused on empowering women to participate in the maritime economy, including a seminar held in June to mark the international Day of the Seafarer, and an upcoming women’s maritime career info and networking event in Cape Town later this month.