Against The Tide

Makhosi Mbokazi, Izingolweni KZN South Coast SA

June 23, 2020

I love that I get to work on different ships with different equipment almost all the time this keeps me on my toes every time. I love change; I’m a true Sagittarius at heart! I love that I learn something new almost every day through people and the job itself. I have recently trained in the engine room to do engine maintenance, and I have to say that’s been my best experience as a Crew boat pilot because I get to do everything myself and personally got to ‘know’ the engine room better than before.

However, it hasn’t been an easy road; the maritime industry is very male-dominated and actually structured for males being a female alone on board can be a challenge on its own because some crew members have never sailed with females before and they genuinely do not know how to work with females. People have so many beliefs about women on board. It’s crazy; from women being bad luck to women can’t do this or that.

The industry is changing to accommodate all of us and I was part of the very first big female batch that was sent to sea from South Africa and I have to say we’ve proven a few so wrong. In my group, there are first female marine pilots, first female dredge masters, first female PO’s, first female Chief officers, first female Master Mariners and I’m so proud of my sisters! We have changed the narrative and the face of maritime forever. I was first black female vessel coordinator for an international maritime/offshore survey company, first Chief officer for international drill company and currently the only black female Surfer pilot-engineer in Angola and South Africa And I could not be more proud! I never imagined the boundaries I’ve pushed through to be where I am. I never imagined my life like this. I didn’t know my strength until I had to face the highest waves in Mossel Bay, the roughest seas in the English Channel the densest traffic in the China seas, Singapore, Australia. I remember stepping on the bridge for the first time knees shaking, the Captain staring at me to find out what my next move is. I’ve learnt to call for help when the traffic was too much to handle for a junior officer. I’ve learnt to ask for help when struggling on deck. It’s been a beautiful and also somewhat painful journey and I’m grateful.

To all future female seafarers come with an open mind, open heart, and eagerness to learn. There’s so much to learn and the rewards are endless. The sea is not the limit but could be a starting point to a world of endless opportunities. We didn’t have female role models at sea for the kind of jobs we wanted to pursue. You have us! Use every opportunity to learn from those ahead of you! You don’t have to make the same mistakes we made. Better our technic. Be a better version of us.

Makhosi is currently a Chief Navigation Officer, Master, Crew boat pilot

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