Capt Londy Ngcobo - By ‘peeling the onion’ layer by layer, you realise that our hearts beat the same
Managing Director, Womaritime Experts and Founder, Global Maritime Youth
Captain Londy Ngcobo, is by profession, a ship navigational officer and notably is Africa’s first female dredge master. Londy is managing director of Womaritime Experts, a company that does consulting in the oceans economy, offers training, special projects as well as manning and recruitment.
She is also the founder of Global Maritime Youth, which facilitates skills supply and demand globally of youth seeking a career in the ocean industry.
Londy’s career choice was simply a progression of her love for the ocean where she felt she belonged. As a young girl, Londy felt a pure connection with the ocean, and commented with a laugh, “As a teenager, it didn’t help that I loved horoscopes, and my sign was Pisces.”
She went on to study maritime studies and began working on container ships for Maersk Shipping Lines where she started as an officer and worked her way up the ranks to third officer. Londy then moved to Africa where she worked on dredges and became Africa’s first female dredge master.
Over this time Londy noticed the many challenges within this industry and felt that she needed to be the ‘voice of the change she wanted to see’. And so, her company, Womaritime Experts, was born.
A man’s world
Being a woman in the maritime industry is still unusual today, where there is only 2% female participation globally. This is the reason why her company was derived from women in maritime, to edify women within their maritime professions, and through the work her consultancy does, to multiply the number of women within the maritime industry.
In this challenging, yet exciting industry, Londy shares that she has been motivated by a lot of different people. But, what has made her stay within the industry, is the authentic feel of the ocean and knowing that this is where she belongs.
Londy’s business means that she is now land-based most of the time. However, that she still gets to go on board ships when required as part of the services offered by her consultancy.
Londy’s peers around her have, over the years, motivated her to move from one vessel to another and to climb the ranks. Many of the men within her industry have inspired her through their passion and dedication. These are men who leave their families for months at a time yet stay connected with their wives and children. Men have also seen her fit to go behind the wheel, rise in the ranks, and to represent women in this industry. “I know that it’s cliché,” says Londy, “that although it’s very small in number, but men, to some degree, are very supportive, and I’ve been inspired by a few captains within my industry.”
Londy believes that the challenges she has experienced in her industry, are common to what most women experience in a predominantly male environment, such as feeling excluded and unwanted. However, many women are now coming out to talk about and address these issues.
“When I started my career, I was a very young teenager of only 18 years of age, and being away from home, I was homesick. To chase a dream and miss out on life, was a challenge,” shared Londy. “However, with time, you realise that it’s all worth it.”
For Londy, remaining grounded in how she was raised, who she was, and keeping rooted and focused on why she was doing what she was, helped her overcome the challenge of being homesick. The tangible reward for Londy was coming back to Africa and being a first in her industry, which made the dream visible and fulfilling. She added that she got to realise that as much as she felt different most of the time on board the ships, that people experienced the same challenges.
“Although time on board the ships was challenging,I came to realise that by ‘peeling the onion’ layer by layer, the layer of colour, or of gender, you realise that our hearts beat the same, and you begin to see people as people.”
Londy would like to see the industry being more balanced and inclusive. “Diversity is a numbers game where the current 2% stats can rise to 50-50 tomorrow, but inclusion is cultivated,” she says. Londy’s wish is to get into rooms where men are for women in the workplace and walk alongside them.
Her future goal for tomorrow’s youth is that their eyes will be opened to the vast number of careers available on the ocean and that they are ‘beautifully blended with the land’. A range of careers such as a makeup artist, a DJ, a mechanical engineer, an electrician, a diver, a singer, and many more, are well accommodated on board ships and within the ocean's economy.
“Interestingly, kids call me the black mermaid and I find it so intriguing that they want to be like Captain Londy. Which is why waking up and showing up for the young girls who want to be like me, even on social media, has become a mission for me,” says Londy.
Londy chuckles, “A joke that we still listen to is that a black man can’t swim.” She added, “We’re cultivating a pure love for the ocean so that the youth can know very early that should they get to their grade 12, there is more options than the land provides.”
We see you
Londy misses the silence of the ocean. So to unwind and relax, she focuses on quietening the noise experienced on land, through meditation and journaling, and little moments of silence, and reminds herself why she shows up every single morning.
“The KZN Top Business initiative means everything to me as a woman entrepreneur, who is navigating unchartered waters. Amidst the noise we often question ourselves. So, for me, this nomination is a validation that says, we see you. This anchors me in many ways,” concluded Londy