Trainees impress on first maritime expedition

The trainees on board SA Agulhas.

The SA Agulhas is back in Cape Town after a successful scientific voyage off the east coast with 20 newly skilled rating trainees who are part of a new pilot programme aimed at increasing the number of employable South African seafarers.

Captain Daniel Postman captained the ship, which left Port Elizabeth on May 31, on its charter off the east coast of South Africa for scientific research as part of the SA Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).

The aim of the research was to retrieve data from a number of scientific buoys deployed in coastal waters to monitor the Agulhas current and its role in climate change.

On board were 20 deck and engine rating trainees, and three cadets, who were gaining practical sea-time experience towards their international seafaring qualifications.

This was the first exposure for the trainees to the maritime sector.

They did not have any formal training before embarking on the trip.

Thembalihle Hlongwane, 25, from Lamontville, KwaZulu-Natal, said even though she studied Information Technology, she now sees a bright future in the maritime industry.

Ms Hlongwane went on to say that people in townships are not aware of such opportunities.

“Coming from a township, I knew a little about ships and I never thought that one could take this as a career,” she said.

Ms Hlongwane said she had only applied because she wanted to keep herself busy as jobs were hard to come by. She said young people, specifically women should grab these opportunities with both hands because growth is almost guaranteed in the maritime industry.

She said she not only enjoyed the experience, but now also knows how to maintain ships and how to keep them tight and secured.

She said her “difficult” mother had even warmed up to the idea of her exploring this as a career.

“I wanted to study drama but my mother forced me to do IT, promising that she’d pay for my drama studies after completing my IT course. When I finished the course she was not singing the same tune, because she sees the course as a waste of time and money. She’s happy and proud now,” she said.

The 20 rating trainees are part of a group of 45 candidates in a pilot project facilitated by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) and funded by the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA).

Chief operating officer of South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Sobantu Tilayi said the scientific mission had been successful and the research obtained would assist in critical experimental analysis.

“The experience of the rating trainees has fortified their wish to be gainfully employed.

“This exercise undertaken using young people with no formal education allows us to entrench the ethos of Operation Phakisa to boost the oceans’ economy,” said Mr Tilayi.

On board the vessel, the scientific crew, accompanied by a select group of scientists from the United States of America, were supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The training officer on board, Steven Paulse, said the trainees were so hungry to learn and for the experience that Captain Postman was very impressed with this intake.

He said they have kept the ship nice and tidy and supported the crew and the scientists.

The rating trainees will undergo further training on board the vessel and also in classrooms.

They described their mission as being successful and an eye-opener to the possibilities that lie within the maritime sector for employment and experience.