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Postgraduate Maritime Affairs scholars head for Sweden

Written by Samona Murugan
Skills development in the maritime sector gets a huge boost as 30 students jet off to study Maritime Affairs in Sweden.

South Africa needs a new cadre of maritime leaders, and I am proud to be a part of the new academia in maritime.” These are the words of Wieman Biyela, who is in Sweden completing his master’s in Maritime Affairs.

Biyela, who works as a Stores Procurement Manager in Pretoria, is one of 30 lucky students who recently received scholarships from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), to complete their master’s or doctoral studies in Maritime Affairs at the prestigious World Maritime University (MWU).

The scholarships costing approximately R14 million were made possible by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in its effort to develop maritime skills. The initiative is part of Samsa’s goal to cement South Africa as one of the world’s top 35 maritime nations.

Recipients Nomcebo Sibisi, a Maritime Economics teacher at New Forest High School in Durban, and Sherry Vermaak, a maritime attorney from Cape Town, are ecstatic about their scholarships.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to pursue my post- graduate studies at such a prestigious international institution. We are very fortunate to have been chosen as the representatives for South Africa. A big thank you to Samsa,” says Vermaak.

Currently, South Africa does not have a dedicated institute for maritime studies. Following a meeting between Samsa‘s chief executive officer, Commander Tsietsi Mokhele and the WMU, Samsa agreed to explore avenues to make enrolment accessible to more South Africans. The WMU jumped on board to further high-level human capacity development in South Africa.

"These postgraduate qualifications in maritime affairs can give South African graduates the professional high-level knowledge required for the maritime sector to flourish, making South Africa a leading maritime nation,” says Mokhele.

Before they departed in September Transport Minister Dipuo Peters urged the students to absorb all they could during their course. She told them to be open-minded and open to enhancing their personal growth.

"You will acquire sufficient knowledge of international regulations, norms and standards and be equipped with international approaches to solving problems. You will be working with colleagues from other countries and will learn to look at problems not only from the point of view of South Africa but also from an international perspective. Upon the successful completion of your studies, you will make a very important contribution to the development of the maritime industry,” added Minister Peters. Advocate Gary Beale from the Cape Bar in Cape Town said that receiving the scholarship was an opportunity to advance his career. Beale will be studying towards a master’s degree in Maritime Law and Policy. The 11-month course will include three weeks of field study in London.

Studying at the WMU, says Beale, will be an opportunity to exchange ideas with peers from around the world about the development of maritime law policy. “This will be a great benefit for South Africa, and the chance to study at the World Maritime University in Sweden is for me a wonderful opportunity not only to engage with experts in their respective field but also meet colleagues from all over the world and exchange ideas and draw upon each other’s experience and knowledge to help develop and strengthen South Africa’s maritime economy within a global context,” said Beale.

This is the first batch of students from South Africa to get qualifications in Maritime Studies from the WMU. Samsa is currently in talks to roll out the scholarship programme annually.

For more information on the programme contact Samsa at tel. 012 366 2600