ACCESS DENIED:

Rocking the boat

As part of a four-ball of relative novices, I was asked not to be offended by the decision not to allow us to participate in the upcoming Fairship General Botha Old Boys Bursary Fund fundraising golf day.

Having previously addressed the fact that industry golf days, by their very nature and legacy, tend to remain rather male dominated with the board of the Bursary Fund, this decision came as a bit of a surprise – given that the four ball in question happened to include four women.

We were assured, however, that the marketing efforts for the golf day had reached out to women’s golfing groups and to the ladies belonging to the Rondebosch Golf Club where the event is being hosted.

That they had to find non-maritime women for an industry golf day does not seem to have made a dent in their thinking. According to the correspondence from the Bursary Fund and the manager of the Golf Club – there was not much interest shown despite their efforts to create a more inclusive field via these channels. That the women which were targeted in these marketing endeavours do not want to sign up for a stereotypically male dominated industry golf day also seems to be beyond their understanding of some of these nuances.

As a group of lady novices keen to have some fun at a golf day aimed at raising money for the future maritime generations – a golf day with sponsored holes aimed at making the game less serious, we have been advised to rather not participate lest it destroys our potential longer-term love of the game. In fact, the club manager has already decided we would NOT enjoy ourselves. The capitalisation of the word is her emphasis and not mine. Instead – she has advised us to embark on a more structured approach that includes the expense of coaching, lessons and mentorship.

Personally – the idea of the golf day sounds a hell of a lot more fun as well as a fundamentally better introduction to the game than the latter advice.

Apparently the “suggestion” to prevent us from teeing off is “not intended to exclude anyone and hopefully not discourage the eager and brave souls from ever trying golf”. I do hope that the intention now is to ascertain whether any of the other “souls” signed up for the golf day are novices and exclude them as well.

Yes, we are certainly novices and no we do not own our own clubs, but the correspondence also makes the assumption that none of us have had any exposure to the game – a fact that neither the Bursary Fund nor the manager cared to clarify. Personally, I have been on a driving range; I have played a short round with some experienced golfers, and I have co-organised several industry golf days back in the day.

During these golf days I spent the majority of the day riding around in a golf cart, photographing and engaging with players – followed by assisting with the prize giving and engaging with the score cards.

It was through the organisation of these golf days that my reservations about hosting such events materialised. The number of women from the maritime industry that played over the course of several years could be counted on one hand. Each event turned into a male bonding fest that effectively discouraged inclusivity.

Having been asked to engage with the Bursary Fund previously about how to move their brand into the future and maintain a relevance for the next generation of maritime professionals, I voiced this exact concern, but did suggest that they at very least include a prize for the top lady player. Not even this hit the mark with their organising committee.

I was told that these events remain the easiest and best way to raise money. Yes, raising money for maritime bursaries is certainly important, but what happened to our commitment to make the industry more cognisant of creating an inclusive environment?

Given this lack of inclusivity, I am rather astounded at the nature of the correspondence received to inform us of their decision, which is inherently condescending in its nature – offering us the opportunity to come out on the day and be taken out “briefly” on a golf cart. The email also goes as far as to say: “I trust that this does not offend any of your team and that it will be taken in the positive spirit intended”.

My answer to this is quite simply: yes, it does offend, but us taking offence is almost irrelevant to the broader picture here. A more “positive spirit” could have been engendered had either the board or the club reached out and made suggestions to accommodate us rather than simply telling us to get ourselves together and try again next year.

Perhaps suggesting that we tee off last so as not to impact the field; or to split our four ball into two and look for four more experienced players to join each four ball (more four balls – more money for the fund) could have indicated a rather more positive response.

I dare say that there are many other creative suggestions that could have come to mind had they thought further than protecting “the sport that they both love” with the word no!


Interestingly, their Instagram account seems to indicate that you are welcome whether you know how to play golf or not.
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It’s time to speak up

Today’s email download included information about a new initiative launched by WISTA International and the International Maritime Organisation that I believe will help diversify the voices that get heard in the maritime industry.

The two organisations have created a new platform, a speaker bank for the women in maritime, intending to end the tradition of all-male speaking panels, sometimes referred to as ‘manels’. I do hope that the vibrant women from Africa’s maritime domain add their voices to this platform.

The Maritime Speakers Bureau is a great initiative and I will definitely be signing up to use the opportunity to register as a speaker as well as to identify potential speakers for future events.

The aim is to promote increase the number of women speakers on the international conference stage. According to a statement issued by WISTA International, “This will show more diverse role models and eliminate the excuse that “I cannot find a female speaker”; and simplify the process of finding speakers. It is free to register and use by speakers and organisers.”

The platform also includes a pledge for signatories to help highlight where diversity gaps occur as well as to commit to improving the inclusion at future maritime events.

“Creating this platform in collaboration with the IMO is a fantastic opportunity to help the wider maritime sector attract more diverse talent in an international industry. Women in our industry will be able to show their interest in participating in panels, becoming more visible and inspiring others. At the same time, event organisers will have the tools to make their panels more inclusive, diverse and interesting,” notes Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, President of WISTA International.

Secretary-General of the IMO, Kitack, Lim believes that the initiative will support inclusive, diverse, richer panels from this free-to-use directory of industry speakers so that audiences can benefit from a range of perspectives that come from having  diverse and inclusive viewpoints.

Visit the website now and sign up!

Rocking the boat

The closing ceremony of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event held last week in Durban included some accolades for South Africa as the host country and one where gender diversity within the maritime industry has gained traction. In stark contrast, the closing ceremony of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event held last week in Durban, also included the ceremonial handover of the International Maritime Organisation’s flag to Iran – the next host of the Parallel Event in 2023.

Iran waves the official International Maritime Organisation flag as the hosts of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event in 2023. (Photo: Hugo Scott Attfield)

No one stood up, no one cut their hair – we all politely clapped as a country currently facing allegations of appalling human rights abuses waved the flag for photographers.

Why are we sitting by and allowing this communal flag to be waved by Iran without any push back? Are we afraid to rock the boat? Are we merely paying lip service to providing an equitable space for women? Is the International Day for Women in Maritime merely empty rhetoric?

I call on WISTA International, WISTA South Africa, WOMESA, SAMSA, The Department of Transport, The International Maritime Organisation and all of the member states to stand up in the face of the mounting evidence against Iran and withdraw its privilege to host the maritime world in 2023. Not doing so portrays an element of complicit support.

For more information read:

And there are plenty more articles relating to the barbaric act of stoning in the country – a practice that is being perpetrated against both men and women for “crimes” such as adultery.

20 in 2022: Quay words and phrases

Last week’s CMTP Midterm Review threw out some quay words and phrases that I thought I would highlight in this blog to create a general picture of the content of the conference that saw active engagement from a number of stakeholders.

  1. 4iR: The Fourth Industrial Revolution and all that comes with it including automation and innovation has been on the agenda for a few years now. The government has a 4iR policy and there are pockets of innovation taking places within universities and amongst incubators. The issue needs to be addressed from a skills and employment perspective within the maritime space.
  2. Action: The call for action on several outstanding and unresolved issues was loud and clear. It is clear that the industry is cynical about the lack of action that has taken place particularly with regard to the ports’ infrastructure and efficiencies as well as the promulgation of legislation.  
  3. Cabotage: Cabotage or a coastal shipping regime is not a new topic and has been debated for many years. The consensus seems to be, however, that a liberal policy should be implemented that is not too restrictive.
  4. Cadetships: While some people are still calling for the active recruitment of new seafarers based on the much-publicised expected shortage of officers within the world fleet, it should be noted that cadet berths continue to be a problem. Some solutions were put on the table including the purchase of a new vessel for training as well as the need to form better relationships with shipping lines. Some good news from SAMSA, however, highlighted that talks in this regard are taking place with the view of placing more cadets at sea.
  5. Collaboration: Let’s be clear on this one. Talking about collaboration and breaking down the silos does not equate to actually collaborating. While this topic has crept into all recent maritime conversations – there is not much clarity on how this can be achieved or what collaboration will look like in the maritime industry.
  6. Decarbonisation: This global ambition is both an opportunity and a challenge for South Africa and, indeed, Africa as a whole. We need to stay abreast of technologies, interventions and research in this regard and we need to position our own industry to take advantage of changes and developments.  
  7. Defining the value chain: This was an interesting issue that cropped up during the three-day event last week. Quite simply – without being able to accurately define the maritime value chain, we are not able to leverage the opportunities. The National Department of Transport (NDoT) announced the theme for the year as Benefitting from the Maritime Transport Value Chain on the first evening of the conference.
  8. Funding and Finance: As a capital-intensive industry that is not well understood by many financing houses and banks, stakeholders believe that more needs to be done to make potential funders aware of the realities of the industry. The establishment of a Maritime Development Fund was also once again raised, but no real action plan was revealed.
  9. Green Hydrogen: This topic deserves more than a single bullet point – but suffice to say that this is fast becoming a buzz word in the maritime sector. It will be interesting to watch how countries and companies position themselves in this regard as the return on investment looks to be long term with substantial capital outlay.
  10. International Maritime Centre: The ultimate aim of the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy is to see South Africa emerge as an International Maritime Centre on the African continent. This implies a healthy and growing subset of maritime sectors that are transformed, efficient, cost-effective and customer-centric. Government is seen to be an enabler in this regard, while the private sector will need to engage as well as collaborate (yes that word again) to ensure this vision is achieved. “South African businesses must be at centre of maritime development to provide services to international industries,” said Dumisani Ntuli of the NDoT in his opening remarks.
  11. Legislation and Policies: The need to fast track several key pieces of legislation was highlighted, but many of these still seem to be some way off being promulgated into law. Stakeholders expressed frustration about recent developments relating to the policy to allow additional STS transfers in Algoa Bay as well as the numerous Acts that are sitting in the legislative pipeline. In addition, there was a call to sign certain important conventions including the Clydebank Declaration.
  12. Maritime Awareness: Maritime awareness has been on the agenda for a number of years and much has actually been achieved in this regard. The concern, however, is the creation of false hope amongst the youth who have been exposed to a seafaring career without much thought as to how we will manage their cadetships and sea time. Nevertheless, stakeholders maintain that maritime awareness needs to start at school level and developments in qualifying maritime teachers was shared.
  13. National Shipping Carrier: Speaking at the opening of the event last week, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula said that the establishment of a National Shipping Carrier was a priority. The aim is to be able to control ships and tonnage for the benefit of South African citizens and companies.
  14. Operation Phakisa: Yes, this is still on the agenda. Despite provoking some cynicism, Operation Phakisa still has a role to play in the development of the maritime agenda. For many, the need to align the newly created Ocean Economy Master Plan (which derives its course from Phakisa) with the CMTP document as well as the numerous government departments that are associated with it is paramount.
  15. Port City: The concept of integrating the port and city was mentioned as a way to move ports towards becoming more responsive to the needs of companies and stakeholders in its precinct as well as to create awareness of the greater logistics chain within adjacent cities.
  16. Port Efficiency: It is a pity that this topic remains a massive issue within the maritime industry in South Africa. Ports and the Ports Authority are seen as the gateway to the maritime sectors – and constituents of these sectors have long anguished over the lack of action taken within the ports to ensure productivity, efficiency, opportunities, and ease of doing business.
  17. Ships Register: Another topic that has been buzzing around conferences for close to two decades is that of bolstering the South African Ships Registry. There are some very practical steps that need to be taken in this regard – not least of which is the need to identify what shipowners are looking for in a Flag State. Shipowners have the luxury of choice in this regard and for a register to deliver the desired gains, we will need to create a framework that makes business sense for shipowners.
  18. Transformation: While there has been transformation in various sub sectors of the maritime industry, many believe that this is still not enough and that the BBBEE sector codes need to be implemented to achieve adequate transformation.
  19. Women and Youth: Part of the transformation agenda includes the inclusion of women and youth within the sector and actively making space for them within the existing structures.
  20. World Maritime Day: We have a massive opportunity to showcase our maritime sectors in October this year as we host the International Maritime Organisation’s World Maritime Day parallel event. We need to leverage this opportunity.

These quay words and phrases can only provide a short snapshot into what was discussed last week and we will be publishing a full report back on the event before the end of the month.  

It’s time to vote

After finishing off writing up the profiles of our shortlisted nominees in the Blue Economy Champion Award – I can honestly say that the maritime sector has no shortage of passionate promoters who are keen to see the industry grow, transform and become sustainable. And, while our list includes some deserving candidates, I have no doubt that there are plenty more champions out there too.

The process does rely on the generosity of our maritime colleagues to not only nominate, but also to vote for those in the industry that deserve recognition. So often we don’t give (or receive) this type of acknowledgement and I do hope that this initiative goes a little way in providing a shout out and help them understand that we see them.

Although extremely pleased by the response to the call for nominations, I am hoping that future editions of this Award programme (yes, we want to continue this into the future) will attract even more input.

What the list of candidates also indicates is that there is a shift in the industry and transformation is taking place.

Thank you to everyone who nominated their peers. It’s now time to vote for your preferred candidate. Public voting closes on 28 March and will be followed by an adjudication process by a panel of judges.

PS: Since it is International Women’s Day, I thought I would point out that eight of the 23 candidates are women – that’s a little over 30 percent. That’s certainly better than the claimed two percent of representation of women in the global maritime industry.

I don’t want to celebrate women in maritime

Well, it’s women’s month here in South Africa and the calendar is filling up with webinars addressing women’s issues in the maritime space. Equally my social media feeds are filled with posts from a number of maritime stakeholders celebrating women in the sector.

I applaud the efforts that companies and organisations are making to focus the attention of the predominantly male industry on the successes of, as well as the plight of, their women colleagues. And I am excited to read posts about amazing women standing out and breaking the stereotypes associated with the industry.

But the more women we see holding positions traditionally dominated by men, the less we will need to seek them out or hold them up as something that is an anomaly. Because, you see, I do not want to continue celebrating women in maritime as something weirdly special – I want women to be commonplace and removed as a token target on some score sheet.

And while there are plenty of amazing women in the industry – we are still scrambling to find and promote them because we still know that we need to prove that there is a space for women here. The stereotype is that it is not a “natural fit” and that those women that are in the sector are champions for the future.

Sadly we are not yet in that future so let’s celebrate the achievements of maritime women this month. But let us not do it to be seen to be relevant – let us do it to be real.

The reality is that celebrating the achievements of these women can create a rather one-dimensional conversation. I hope we can do better than simply holding a one dimensional conversation this month and I aim to attend a number of the virtual events that are being hosted to get a better understanding of how this dialogue is evolving.

Events on the calendar to diarise:

  • 06 August @ 15:00: Institute for Security Studies – How can we draw women into the Maritime Industry 
  • 18 August @ 11:00: South African International Maritime Institute – Re-imagining 2020: navigating the equality agenda in an era of COVID-19 (registration link TBC)
  • 21 August @ 10:00: eThekwini Maritime Cluster – Navigating the Role of Women in the Maritime Industry (registration link TBC)
  • 31 August: South African Maritime Safety Institute – TBC

From my perspective, and hopefully in a bid to get real and not simply be relevant on social media, I will be inviting a few women to join me in a new segment on our platforms: On the Quayside where we chat about real issues in an honest way.

You will find links to these conversations on our FaceBook page, via Twitter and LinkedIn.

If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough

Back: Arielle Kuper of Solution Strategies and Clare Gomes, Chairperson of WISTA-SA. Middle: Paula Giusti of Trade Ocean and Jane Cotton of One Eighty. Front Nolwandle Mboweni of Vela International and Eva Moloi of Vice Chairperson of WISTA-SA.

It is not often that you walk away from a maritime industry function feeling inspired to dream bigger, but I left last night’s WISTA-SA’s networking meeting feeling resolute to follow through on some major plans for 2020.

“If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough,” Nolwandle Mboweni, CEO of Vela International told WISTA members.

With roots in teaching that continue to define the way she interacts in industry, Nolwandle was nudged into the business world by her father and her husband. Today she is lightyears away from the classroom as she occupies seats in a number of boardrooms – and is currently actively seeking new opportunities in the maritime sector.

Patting her hip pocket and smiling, she was clear that pocket-sized dreams would not have helped her participate in delivering the Gautrain – Africa’s first high-speed train or seen her become a director of companies such as Afrisun Gauteng, Total SA, Allpay Gauteng and more.

Ariella Kuper’s energetic and entertaining description of her road to becoming a major player in the ship auctioning business was equally as inspiring.

“Stars need darkness to shine,” she enthused, telling WISTA members that she had actively sought out male-dominated environments during her career.

Having started out in the steel sector almost by accident and by subsequently “tricking” her way into a job at Macsteel, Ariella’s career culminated in her co-founding the biggest mining auction house in South Africa.

But, following two bouts of cancer, she decided to regroup and focus on what had become a passion for ship auctions. Now she heads up Solution Strategist and is actively involved in ensuring that tonnage moves hands.

For Paula Giusti the path to the maritime sector was also accidental. Arriving in South Africa from Argentina 20 years ago with an agriculture qualification and in need of employment, it was her ability to speak Spanish that landed her a job at a ships’ agency.

Now she is driven by a desire to see Cape Town amplify its position as a super yachting destination and is working with industry players to promote this exciting niche maritime market.

Host for the evening, Janet Cotton of One Eighty has had no less inspirational journey in a very male-dominated sub sector of the industry. She’s the person to call if you need more information about mechanical or structural failures on your vessels or equipment.

Like many women in the industry she has had a number of laughable interactions based on her decision to show up in a workshop environment where she now commands respect.

The services of the One Eighty laboratory in Cape Town is used by many insurers and companies to help piece together the puzzles associated with equipment failure and, in many cases, provides a better understanding of how to prevent similar occurrences in future.

One thing is clear – none of these women ever kept their dreams in their pockets. They now represent significant clout in their respective sectors and are helping eliminate stereotypical reactions to the presence of women in the maritime domain.