South African seafarers shine at sea

Jan 12, 2005
Author: Fred Meintjes, Marine Crew Services

When junior officer Ian Hlongwane stepped on the deep-sea reefer vessel, Snow Land, in Cape Town last year to begin his stint at sea, he could not have hoped for a better start. He was one of the new South African crew selected for the Snow Land in terms of an historic agreement between Marine Crew Service and the Holy House Shipping Line of Sweden under which the Swedish line are replacing their present crews with South African seafarers. (See report in this column dated 5 December 2004).

His sea going career began six years ago and he has sailed on foreign going vessels for four years as a Deck Cadet and subsequently as a Third Mate.

Today (12 January) Ian Hlongwane arrived back in Cape Town on the Snow Land, to be greeted with the news that he had already been promoted. When the vessel sails from Cape Town later this week with another precious load of fruit for the European market, Ian will become Second Mate with increased responsibilities.

“Ian’s quick success is proof yet again that South Africans are ready to become a major force in the international maritime business,” says Lance Manala, chief executive of Marine Crew Services. The Master of the Snow Land, Captain Peter Adansi-Andoh, echoes his words. “The hand-over went smoothly, we are impressed by skill levels and the new crew has done extremely well.”

The agreement with Holy House, which was negotiated with the support of Cape Reefers, the shipping division of the Capespan Group, is a major boost for job creation for South Africans in the maritime field. A second crew will be placed on a Snow reefer vessel in March and two more will follow later.

Marine Crew Services South Africa was established 18 months ago to develop and place South African seafarers with international shipping companies and ship management companies. Since then Manala says MCS has already established strong contacts in the offshore industry. Not only is it supplying crew to a growing list of clients but is also supervising the training of seafarers from Angola on behalf of four major companies operating in that market.

“We are increasing our efforts to get more corporate companies, particularly those shipping cargo in the mineral and petroleum fields to support this effort. South Africa and South Africans should derive more benefit for the shipment of our cargoes and in this way we will contribute greatly to job creation and alleviating poverty.”

For Ian Hlongwane going to sea on the Snow Land is a dream that has come true. “I have always dreamt about the sea and to be on board such a nice vessel is a privilege.” The change in the young man, who sailed from Cape Town for the first time about a month ago, is very evident. He is confident and knows exactly where he is going.

The young officer from KwaZulu-Natal is full of praise for those who helped him to acquire his skills and he talks enthusiastically about the experiences on the bridge of the Snow Land. “The Snow Land has a crew of only 23 and being together over such long periods of time brings us all closer together. It does get lonely at times, but we create lots of entertainment for ourselves.”

Ian Hlongwane (left) on board the Snow Land with Third Officer Godfred Shandu

During the vessel’s stay in Cape Town, another young officer joined the crew. Xolani Xhosa, a fellow KwaZulu-Natalian, says he is excited about his sailing career.

Fittingly it is Ian who has to teach Xolani the ropes before he can continue with his own responsibilities as Second Mate.

When the Snow Land parts from its berth at Cape Town’s Fruit Terminal, Ian Hlongwane will be only on his second voyage on the Snow Land, yet its seems as if he has been at sea for many years. With more South Africans to follow, it may well be the start of a new era for South African seafarers.

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