This Women’s Month, Transnet National Ports Authority is celebrating its landmark appointment of a female marine technical officer (MTO) at the Port of Cape Town, a first in the port’s history. Jabulile Shandu is not only the port’s first female MTO, she also holds the record as the longest serving female marine engineering officer and is only the second marine engineer to ever be employed by the port.

As MTO, she is responsible for providing technical advice to the marine engineering team to support the operation and maintenance of watercraft such as tugs and pilot boats, a role that is critical ahead of the port’s craft replacement strategy which will see it acquiring new workboats in the near future.

Prior to her appointment as MTO in April 2019, Shandu served as a marine engineering officer for over nine years after qualifying as a marine engineer. “I did my mechanical studies at Durban Technical College, thereafter completed my marine engineering studies at the Durban University of Technology,” she explained. “I did my cadetship with Unicorn Shipping Company for 12 months, after which I had to sit for the SAMSA oral examination to qualify as a marine engineering officer.”

Jabulile Shandu
Jabulile Shandu

Shandu said her appointment as the first female MTO was a dream come true and that she was fully prepared for the demands of the job. “Being the port’s MTO comes with great responsibilities that require open line communication with different stakeholders, therefore good communication and respect go hand in hand,” she said. “It’s important to know that the job needs to be carried out effectively in order for operations to continue smoothly. My motto in life is to ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. This ensures I do my work with integrity and always uphold company values.”

Earlier this year, the port also recognised Sanette Robinson, who was the first female pilot to obtain an open licence at the Port of Cape Town. Robinson is trained and certified to guide anything from the very smallest vessels to tankers (51260 DW) and container ships (12000 TEU) into port.

Commenting on gender diversity and women empowerment, Cape Town Port Manager Mpumi Dweba-Kwetana said it was important that the gap between males and females in the workplace grew smaller, and that by supporting women, TNPA as well as other role-players were bringing about positive change in the previously male dominated maritime industry. “It is assuring to see more women show an in interest in maritime and marine careers. TNPA strives to create equal opportunity for all South Africans and we look forward to more female firsts,” she said.