‘Don’t let life be an obstruction on your way’

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From a watch keeper in 2003, Tuwilika Amukwa is today a navigation officer.

Born at Etale in Ohangwena Region 41 years ago, she started primary school at the Etale Combined School and then went on to Gabriel Taapopi Secondary School, where she completed Grade 12 in 1997.

She started at NovaNam/Pescanova LÜderitz in 2003 as watch keeper. After achieving a Class 5 ticket she was promoted to second mate in 2004. She was later promoted to chief mate until 2011.

She worked on vessels as a navigation officer: on the MFV Keetmans, Omuhuka, Goelette, and Khomas at Pescanova. She furthered her maritime studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa, from 2012 – 2013 where she completed her S1 – S4 in 2013. She then graduated with a national diploma in maritme in April 2014 as per SAMSA requirements and started her sea time (practicals) before doing oral examinations to achieve her ticket.

“It was very difficult to do the sea time due to financial restraints. I stayed home for over a year and applied for financial assistance without any success,” Amukwa recalls.

She requested financial assitance from Namsov Fishing in 2015 and was called in for an interview. Eventually she one day received an all-important call informing her that she passed the interview and that the company would sponsor her practical sea time.

She entered the company as a navigational officer in the fishing industry and had the chance at last to complete her prerequisite sea time on board a vessel. Herewith she also properly started her career at sea on-board a vessel.

The first vessel she joined to acquire her sea time was the SA Agulhas, via SAMTRA in Cape Town – on which she sailed for four months.The next vessel she joined was a tanker vessel, via Unicorn in Durban. Then she joined the MT tanker Oliphant in Mauritius, sailing to India. This was followed by joining a vessel in Guinea, Conakry with sailing journeys to different European countries.

“It was definitely not as easy as it looks on paper. You have to know and be very sure why you are doing it and it is a lot of very hard work,” says Amukwa, having to do eight-hour shifts as a bridge watch, four hours at a time, day and night and two hours on deck.

“This was all done in a men-dominated world where everyone expects you to fail. I had to prove myself in this world and finally did it,” she says.

After completing her sea time she went home to prepare for her oral examination in order to complete the requirements for her ticket. She passed this exam and received her qualification as an unlimited navigational officer.

“Looking back at this whole journey, I can only say it was not easy because at the same time I had to also care for and look after my younger brothers and sisters. But I did this because family is very important to me and it is my duty. Over and above this I am married as well with a young daughter of my own. It was difficult enough to leave all these responsibilities and care for loved ones on land for months at a time to join a vessel at sea.”

Normally the saying goes that behind every successful man there is a woman. In the case of Amukwa it is the reverse. “A very special thanks should go to my husband who has been there for me and supported me all the way so that I could make my dream come true and further my maritime career,” she says appreciatively.

“Not many married men would do that. I owe my husband a very big gratitude and thanks, but having said that, I also owe my whole family, brothers, sisters, cousins a big thank you for standing in when I couldn’t do so myself because of work.”

For anybody who wants to achieve what seems to be impossible or difficult, Amukwa has this to say: “Don’t let life be an obstruction on your way. Take a decision and stick to it, all the way.”

She also has a word or two for Namsov: “I cannot thank you enough – because of you I am who I am today. I will never forget this chance I was given and may God bless you and my wish is, please assist others like me in future,” adding that she can now navigate without limit.

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