Lucinda Krige is a South African inspiration. She is a qualified Marine Engineer Officer who, since 2003, has been working for renowned seafood processing company Sea Harvest. She currently works as a HR Business Partner in Learning and Development at Sea Harvest.
She was the first woman to qualify as a Chief Engineer in the fishing industry in South Africa. The sector produces 80 million tons of food and employs 40 million people across the globe.
Sea Harvest is a company that was established in 1964 on the Atlantic West Coast of South Africa. They are headquartered in Saldanha in the Western Cape. They catch and package seafood, exporting it to 22 countries.
Lucinda, being the first female engineering cadet in the fisheries industry to rise up the ranks to become a Chief Engineer, is a role model to the many unemployed youths in South Africa who are desperately seeking the kinds of opportunities she has worked for.
Lucinda started with Sea Harvest as an engineering cadet in 2003. Sea Harvest, at the time, was recruiting cadets via the newspaper. Lucinda’s father drew her attention to the article, saying she should perhaps pursue it.
“I asked him what it was about - he didn’t know, and neither did I,” she said.
“But, I applied and was successful. When I boarded my first vessel, that is when I started to discover what marine engineering was all about, and life at sea - the rest is history.”
At the age of 20, Lucina began the grueling process of practically learning the ins and outs of the technologically advanced trawler vessels used in the fishing industry. She had to learn everything from the operation to the maintenance of the fishing vessels during her time as a cadet. Almost every single time she boarded a ship, she was the only woman on board.
“When you start out in the field, you start as an engineering officer, that’s the first level,” she said.
“You start with the basic knowledge of various disciplines. That is where your workshop training comes in, because those are your hand-skills, that you have to get under the knee.
“For instance, your winch system onboard the vessel includes hydraulics, pneumatics, and electronics. Then there is refrigeration, electrical, engines — which is the mechanical part, and controls section. You start out with a cluster of skills that you need to familiarize yourself with.”
For a detailed look at the five years of of theoretical training and work experience Lucinda conducted to obtain her qualification as chief engineer, watch her chat with me here:
Breaking the glass ceiling
Lucinda and her father took a keen interest in stories of female engineers in the newspapers. This, coupled with her love for mathematics and science, led to her pursuing a career in the engineering industry. She says working in a male-dominated industry was not too intimidating to her.
“The funny thing about my career choice is that when I was little, my father would always ask what I wanted to be when I grow up. This was back in the 80s. I had this thing of wanting to be a policewoman. My father asked why I wanted to do it, and I said it was something that I didn’t see a lot of women doing.
“When I was in primary school, I came home with the newspaper that had an article in it about the first female civil engineer in South Africa that was part of a bridge project. That’s when I decided I wanted to do engineering.”
It has been eleven years since Lucinda was sea-bound as an engineering cadet with Sea Harvest. She now chuckles when she says she has ‘hung up her overalls’ for an on-shore job.
She now heads up the technical and maritime training at Sea Harvest’ Saldanha headquarters. She ensures that the curriculum is up to date in accordance with the vessels so that the ships can be safely manned.
The training helps both those who have no formal qualifications and those who do, level up in the maritime industry in the country. Lucinda sits on advisory committees and is a fishing industry representative that speaks at government events as well. Sea Harvest takes in unemployed youth in South Africa and puts them through an apprenticeship program that helps them become artisans in the fishing industry in South Africa.