I was losing the fight- Kenya's first female marine pilot opens up

Elizabeth Marami [Photo: Courtesy]

Kenya's first female marine pilot Elizabeth Marami has taken to Twitter to narrate how she almost gave up on her dream and the challenges she had to overcome to be at the top.

In the thread, Marani posted that the gender card almost curtailed her chances in the maritime sector as she struggled to amass much-needed experience after attaining her first license in 2014.

Marani narrated that she tarmacked for three years, pleading with shipping companies for placement opportunities but was turned down severally while her male colleagues progressed.

She disclosed that 2018 was a difficult year, a nightmare where she felt she was losing the fight.

Here is her Twitter thread in full:

“In 2009, I embarked on a journey that completely changed my life for good! You see, when you pioneer, your priorities shift, it’s no longer about you but how you will make that space a better place for generations to come.

First step was for everyone to get an opportunity to get the same qualification in Kenya, I studied in Egypt (2009) because at that time Kenya was not mandated to offer the courses that would be internationally recognized by International Maritime Organization. (Blacklist)

Efforts were made and many worked tirelessly until a curriculum was developed and the Merchant shipping act revised. In 2010, Kenya became white listed by International Maritime organization to offer internationally recognized STCW. Kenyans train in Kenya and work internationally

Elizabeth Marami [Photo: Courtesy]

Problem was getting placement on ships. Yes they could train but where would they work?! Kenya had a National shipping line (KNSL) but with no ships!

I came home in 2014 with my 1st license but could not progress even as a pilot because I needed to attain my next license (1st Officer) so I remained a trainee pilot! This could only be change/achieved if I worked on a ship as a 3rd/2nd Officer for 12 months.

I walked from door to door to different shipping companies for 3 years to get placement, I got turned down severally because of gender and as time went by, age. I watched my male colleagues progress as they got placement in a company that rejected me because I was female.

I must admit, I had days I questioned my purpose, then I remembered the young girl/boy who had enrolled in Bandari Maritime College and will not be able to get their 1st placement as a cadet to attain their first license and it was heart-breaking! This became my driving force.

In 2017, a company offered me an opportunity, as a cadet, I took it up with the hope that all I needed was to prove myself to get promoted and work as a 3rd deck Officer which would count my months of experience to attain the next license.

After 6 months and a promotion recommendation, I went back for my next contract just to be turned down by the shipping company that they had been asked to end all PR relations with Kenya. I was back to square 1. The 6 months on board didn’t even count because I served as a cadet!

June to October 2018 was a nightmare, I was losing the fight and it was taking a toll on me. Then news came in and MSC signed an MOU to revive the KNSL! This was probably the best news ever, I became part of the 1st batch to go on board, 1 Officer and 15 deck ratings.

Elizabeth Marami [Photo: Courtesy]

I got the opportunity of joining their new build ships that set sail in March for a 9 month contract but as a cadet with hope that this time I’ll get promoted so that my sea time can actually count.

09.05.2019, 2 months after the ship’s inauguration, the Captain called me and informed me that I could end my contract on my preferred date and re-embark on my next availability as 3rd deck Officer. MSC finally gave me an opportunity that was denied to me regardless of gender!

What I had fought for  so long had come to pass and during the inauguration when the owner told me he hoped to employ more Kenyans, I had no doubt that this will come to pass

Then I come online and find that there is probable sabotage of the deal and it just made me angry!

Kenya National Shipping Line was formed in1987 with KPA as the primary shareholder.  In 1997 the KNSL through competitive bidding welcomed a new strategic partner, the MSC

Kenya has no ships and may not be able to acquire in the immediate future, but she can Charter and the partner MSC is offering strategic solutions to revive KNSL-  like enabling KNSL to issue Bills of lading and much more.

Elizabeth Marami addressing delegates at the People and Culture forum [Photo: Courtesy]

By KNSL operating CT2 (second container terminal) the port can be assisted to receive more transshipment cargo. This extends to increased earnings, job opp most importantly chance to influence run away freight costs and landed costs for shipping that currently run into billions.

Now MSC not only owns cargo ships but cruise ships and by 2026 9 new build ships and 4 luxury cruise ships that translates to over 10,000 job opportunities guaranteed for Kenyan seafarers.

On cruise ships, Job opp are vast and don’t necessarily require high end skills, from housekeeping, garbage collectors,cleaners, waiters, bartenders, entertainers, shop sellers,casino dealers, receptionists,bartenders etc with the least being paid 750-900usd! With promotion guaranteed

I’m an example that promotion is guaranteed! The plight of lack of placement for Kenyan seafarers will be ended and with a set up recruitment agency by MSC this opens doors to all Kenyans – but the deal must smoothly go through.

Mind you, you have accommodation on the ship and food is provided so you end your contract with your salary intact! And in forex!ET

My thread today is to enlighten you on the MOU & stand with the 3,000+ young seafarers who took to the streets against those who are trying to sabotage the deal for their own benefit. I hope you will all stand with us Kenyan seafarers!”


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