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NMB harbour masters recount their success

THROUGHOUT September 2020 and into Transport Month in October, port landlord Transnet National Ports Authority commemorated its 20th year of existence and the strides made since its first group of marine trainees of colour, including women, began their maritime careers two decades ago.

Among those celebrated were the harbour masters of the Nelson Mandela Bay ports of Port Elizabeth and Ngqura.

Captain Brynn Adamson, Port of PE

Born of a maritime family, as the son of a skipper on a fishing boat in Port Elizabeth, Adamson was always interested in everything to do with the sea. As a youngster he was a lifeguard and a naval cadet, and planned to join the navy, possibly as a diver, when he left school.

“By the time I matriculated, my dad had passed on and my mom was keen for me to follow in his footsteps. I had no clue about the commercial side of the industry, but Portnet was offering bursaries to previously disadvantaged individuals who had the right credentials. I went to find out more and ended up being accepted to do a bridging course at Wingfield Technical College at the naval base in Cape Town.

“I realised I could make a success of this and began applying myself and having passed the bridging course, was given a bursary to do maritime studies at the Cape Peninsula Technikon.”

Captain Adamson took every opportunity to advance his career, including the marine pilot training bridging course in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, along with his peers.

“I loved the job with all its challenges and went on to get my open licence. There is no better job in the world than being a marine pilot. Every day is different.

“You learn more as you go and improve with experience, benchmarking yourself against your peers, and enjoying the satisfaction of knowing you are making progress,” he said.

“Transnet gave us phenomenal support and we were able to move up through the ranks to take up positions as pilots, deputy harbour masters and harbour masters.”

For Adamson, there has been no stopping on the learning journey as he is currently on the Transnet Talent Nurturing programme.

He says this breed of harbour masters is ready and looking forward to tackling the challenge of balancing regulatory and economic pressures in commercial shipping, and finding ways of adapting to environmental pressures such as climate change.

His advice to youngsters is, “Be ready to meet the opportunities and embrace them.

“Don’t hold back, show interest. Pick people’s brains. Learn from the people around you and take responsibility for your career.”

Captain Thulani Dubeko, Port of Ngqura

Dubeko’s road to harbour master has been a long, hard trek, paved with the resolve to succeed for both himself and others like him.

“My biggest motivator is the love for my country, and the organisation that I work for. I believe as a country and as a company we’ve got such huge potential to change the lives of the people. I come from a very, very poor background and I feel that I am on this earth for a reason. One of the biggest things for me is to make a mark and change other people’s lives,” he said.

Never content with remaining stagnant, the harbour master has squeezed every drop of potential out of each opportunity that has come his way.

Hailing from Lusikisiki, Dubeko was one of the second group of candidates to participate in the marine pilot training programme in Rotterdam.

His own maritime journey began 22 years ago, when he joined Safmarine as a trainee navigation officer. In 2000, he found a home at the Port of Port Elizabeth as a trainee tug master and, after training in Rotterdam, his career truly began to gain traction.

By 2003, he was a marine pilot.

Four years later, Dubeko obtained both his open licence and a promotion to serve as a marine operations manager at the Port of East London.

In 2010, he moved to Nelson Mandela Bay to join TNPA’s youngest port – the Port of Ngqura – to take on the role of deputy harbour master.

Now, with seven years’ experience as Harbour Master and 20 years as part of the TNPA family, Dubeko remains as excited for the future as he was in 1997 when he first stepped into the industry.

“I believe there are still challenges but we are definitely on the right track to deal with them one day at a time.”

Coffee table book and documentary

TNPA’s celebratory maritime heritage programme coincided with the country’s Heritage Month and the global commemoration of World Maritime Day.

During its virtual Maritime Heritage Celebration in September, TNPA unveiled its Maritime Transformation Legacy coffee table book and documentary, showcasing the stories of the pioneers who transformed its marine operations environment and created a proud legacy for the organisation and country.

The stories of Captains Adamson and Dubeko are among those captured in the book.

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