June 20, 2020
Khayakazi ‘Pinky’ Somzana succeeded in overcoming gender bias to realise her dream of becoming a Chief Marine Engineer Officer (CMEO).
The 37-year-old was appointed CMEO at Port of East London on 1 April 2020. She is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of all machinery and engineering functions on Tugboats which includes watch keeping, repair and maintenance.
While working within a
largely male-dominated industry has not always been smooth sailing, the
experience only made her more determined to navigate her way through. In 2002,
with N1 – N4 electrical engineering qualifications under her belt, Somzana
joined TNPA as an apprentice Millwright.
“When I joined the
company, it was not easy at first since there were no females in the industry
at that time, it was only men. I used to feel so small when qualified
Millwrights would send me to fetch a spanner and when I came back, the job would
already be done. But I eventually I got used to that and gained the experience
I wanted. In order to achieve the training despite their attitude, I had to
work hard and be dedicated to my job.
When they would give me tasks to do on my own, I made sure I
accomplished them and that’s how I gained their trust and succeeded,” Somzana
In 2005, Somzana
qualified as a Millwright and then went on to serve as a Trainee Marine
Engineer Officer at the Port of East London to gain more experience.
Five years later,
Somzana’s hard work paid off, when she received a bursary to pursue Maritime
Studies at the Durban University of Technology to qualify as a Marine Engineer.
Later that year, she embarked on a 12-month-long cadetship training period onboard
a sea-going vessel.
a vessel was not as nice as one would think. It was my first time being that
far away from my family, with people of different cultures, and being the only
woman onboard. I had sleepless nights at times as the sea would be rough and the
ship rolls while you are sleeping. We would be called at midnight for
manoeuvring or watchkeeping. The training itself was also challenging, as I
only had theory in mind.”
Somzana completed her
Maritime Studies S3 at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2018, which
allowed her to work full-time as a Second Engineer on the Port of East London’s
Last year, the mother
of one was able to take the final step in her career journey, obtaining a South
African Maritime Safety Authority Certificate of Competency as a CMEO Port
“I received my
qualification on my birthday, 3October, which made me realise that God
has been with me all this time. It was the best gift I ever had, even though it
did not come easy,” she said.
experiences during her early days on the job, Somzana is thankful for the hard
lessons and to the supportive male colleagues who encouraged her
“I am so thankful to
TNPA for believing in me. Without the company’s assistance and my colleagues I
wouldn’t be here – especially CMEO Andre Breede, Aubrey Tibane – my former
Marine Technical Manager who made sure that I got the best training, as well as
my line manager, Marine Operations Manager Mzukisi Nqwata and Dock Master Shawn
Coetzer, who were always willing to assist me,” she said.
“To everyone out there who has a goal to achieve, I would like to say, never give up on wanting to reach a goal. Pray and work hard, nothing comes easy, it takes time but it happens in God’s timing. My career story looks like I jumped from one point to where I am today, but I can tell you that it was not smooth at all.”
Source: Transnet National Ports Authority