Silindile Mkhabela, 34, has set her career course and is steering towards an executive position in marine operations with Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
The mother of two who was born in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal is one of four TNPA employees who recently returned from overseas where they studied for a Masters programme in Shipping and Transport.
The Masters in Shipping and Transport equips participants to fulfil senior management positions in the maritime industry.
Silindile and Mpho Elliot Hadebe enrolled at the Netherlands Maritime University in Rotterdam in the Netherlands while Julia Ramishana and Thandiwe Ntuli studied at the Netherlands Shipping and Transport College in Korea, located in the Marine Centre in Gwangyang Free Economic Zone.
Silindile who describes herself as “fun-loving, driven and self-confident” is presently the acting Marine Operations Manager at the Port of Durban.
Her dream was to be a chartered accountant. However, she ended up studying for a Diploma in Management at the then Technikon Natal (now Durban University of Technology).
She joined Portnet, now TNPA, as a permanent employee in 2000 and worked her way up with jobs in Richards Bay, Saldanha, Cape Town and Durban. When a position for Trainee Marine Fleet Manager became available in the Port of Cape Town in 2002, she took the challenge because she was interested in gaining experience in port operations. In 2003 she was appointed Marine Fleet Operations Manager in the Port of Durban.
In 2010 Silindile was nominated for a scholarship to study Masters in Shipping and Transport in the Netherlands. She returned in October 2011 after completing 12 months of full-time studies.
In her current role as acting Marine Operations Manager, she is responsible for the functioning and the performance of the entire Marine Services department.
“My advice to young woman out there is that they must not be afraid to explore all opportunities that become available because that is when much learning happens. This will allow them to grow in their chosen careers.”
Thandiwe, 42, who grew up in KwaMashu, Durban, said her inspiration to succeed in her career came from her father.
“My father died of a stroke when I was five years old. He was paralysed for six years. Before he died he told me that I was clever and his regret was that he would not see me grow up.
“My mother latched onto this and went out of her way to make sure I excelled in my studies as it was my ambition to be a doctor,” said Thandiwe who has 21-year old twin sons studying at university.
While she did not study medicine after completing high school, Thandiwe who had a passion for mathematics and physics enrolled at Mangosuthu Technikon to study engineering.
When Unicorn Shipping Lines offered her a sponsorship to qualify in marine engineering, she grasped at the opportunity. She joined as a cadet in 1989 and attained a Class 4 grade in marine engineering. However, since she had children, she chose to work at the port rather than on ships.
Thandiwe joined TNPA in 1996 as a Marine Engineer. She studied further part-time to become a Chief Engineer on the tugboats which performed mainly port operations. She then studied for an MBA.
In December 2005 she was appointed Dockyard Manager in Durban.
Thandiwe was chosen for the Masters programme in Korea based on her Transnet work experience and academic potential.
She was in a class of 19 with 10 foreigners from South Africa, China, Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, Colombia and Oman.
She felt more confident about climbing the career ladder now that she has completed the Masters programme.
“Armed with the Masters, the possibilities are as endless as my dreams. My advice to young women out there is to know what you are good at and then be guided by your intuition as to what you prefer to spend the rest of your life doing,” said Thandiwe who is Marine Operations Manager at the Port of Saldahna.
Julia who grew up in Mafikeng, graduated with a B. Com degree in accounting and auditing in 1994 from the University of North West.
She worked for a petroleum company before joining TNPA in the marine department in April 2002. In 2003 she went to Rotterdam Port’s Shipping and Transport College where she acquired a harbour master certificate.
Upon her return from the Netherlands in 2003, she was appointed as a floating fleet manager at the Port of Durban. In 2004 she was promoted to the Port of Richards Bay as a Marine Operation Manager, a position that she still holds.
She said the Masters qualification she attained in Korea has taught her that the world is connected by trade and each port is as important as its last performance.
“If you are not consistent and innovative in the service you offer, shippers will move to the next available destination.”
Mpho who hails from Vryheid is a chief engineering technician at the Port of East London.
He said young people must choose their tertiary studies carefully to ensure they can secure employment.
“I advise young people to work hard in mathematics and science so that they can land jobs in the maritime and engineering disciplines,” he said.
Tau Morwe, Chief Executive of TNPA, said employees who took the Masters programme in Shipping and Transport overseas, returned with valuable experiences to share.
“The Masters programme is in keeping with the philosophy of continuous learning and the important Transnet Culture Charter of ‘We empower our employees’.
“The various programmes provide participants with the opportunity to see a world-class port system in operation and interact with port employees from all over the world whilst also bringing back learnings in best practice,” Morwe said.