As a high school pupil in Durban, it never occurred to Londy Ngcobo that she would one day become the first female dredge master in Africa. Not only that, but she is also an international ship navigator officer and a passionate advocate of the naval industry, earning her the nickname of ‘Black mermaid’. The maritime industry is globally regarded as a male-dominated industry.
Ngcobo’s achievement is also significant as South Africa (SA) had earmarked ocean economy as a critical sector which could unlock job opportunities for thousands of unemployed SA youths. Her role as a dredger entails, among others, maintaining or increasing the depths of navigation channels and anchorages, including berthing areas, to ensure boats and ships pass through safely. She says being the first female dredger is not only a personal achievement, but a platform to inspire more young women to dream big and explore STEM fields.
After completing matric, Londy enrolled at the Durban University of Technology in maritime studies. She subsequently applied for and was accepted into a Cadetship Programme by global shipping company, Maersk Group. At the end of the programme, she qualified as a deck officer serving on-board all sized vessels and sailing international waters.
Improving her qualifications
After her Cadetship Programme, she received another qualification – a second license as Master on Port Operations vessels. Her list of functions grew to include working on dredgers, ships removing sediment and debris from the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbours and other water bodies. Obtaining her second license did not mark the end of her studies as Londy underwent several advanced dredging training sessions including one in the Netherlands. Here she acquired experience in international merchant shipping.
Reaching the youth
As her popularity and profile grew, Ngcobo attracted international attention by speaking on prestigious platforms such as TEDx Talk, Forbes Women Africa during various media events. Not only has she impacted the lives of many young people globally through these platforms, but she also instilled a winning mentality and passion particularly among those who met her. She also sat on various maritime boards and organisations involved in women, youth and leadership sectors aimed at continuously developing Africa’s maritime professions through advocacy, education and awareness.
Global and local awards
Some of her accolades include:
- Being awarded 2014’s youngest achiever by the KwaZulu-Natal Premier;
- In 2017 she received the Best Innovation Award for introducing International compliance standards;
- The Black Excellence Award winner for ‘Leading Women In Scarce Skills’ and
- as founder of Global Maritime Youth and Chief Executive of Woman Maritime Experts, a consulting firm in the shipping industry
Recently Transnet National Ports Authority unveiled its new port dredging vessel “iTaleni” at the Durban Port to improve operations in Durban and other ports by improving access to docking vessels. Named after the battle of iTaleni near the iThala Mountains where Zulu king, Dingane, defeated the Voortrekkers in 1838, it is hoped the new dredging vessel will open more opportunities for young females to follow in Ngcobo’s footsteps.