Somzana overcomes challenges to become new port CMEO

SURVIVING ROUGH SEAS: Khayakazi Somzana was recently promoted to CMEO of the Port of East London
Picture: SUPPLIED

The TNPA Port of East London recently welcomed its new chief marine engineer officer (CMEO), Khayakazi Somzana.

As CMEO, Somzana is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of all machinery and engineering functions on the port’s tugboats.

Her journey with TNPA began in 2002, when she joined up 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.

“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.

“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,” Somzana said.

Despite the obstacles, she managed to qualify as a millwright in 2005 and then moved on to serve as a trainee marine engineer officer at the Port of East London.

After serving for five years, she pursued maritime studies at the Durban University of Technology to qualify as a marine engineer in 2010.

That same year, she began a 12-month cadetship training programme aboard a sea-going vessel.

“Joining 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 was rough and the ship rolls while you are sleeping. We would also be called at midnight for manoeuvring or watchkeeping.

“The training itself was also challenging, as I only had theory in mind,” she said.

Somzana finally completed her maritime studies S3 in 2018 at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, which allowed her to serve as a full-time second engineer in East London.

Finally, last year saw her obtain her SA Maritime Safety Authority Certificate of Competency, opening the door for her promotion to CMEO.

“I received my qualification on my birthday, October 3, 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,” Somzana said.

“To everyone out there who has a goal to achieve, I would say: never give up.”

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