Story: Katrine Anker-Nilssen | Pictures: Supplied
A global ship navigator and dredge master, Captain Londy Ngcobo is passionate about unlocking Africa’s ocean economy. With over 15 years’ experience in the maritime industry, her background includes maritime studies, international merchant shipping experience, advanced dredging from the Netherlands IHC, an industry-shaking role as a former maritime compliance manager for Transnet National Ports Authority, founder of Global Maritime Youth, and chief executive of Womaritime Experts – a consulting firm in the shipping industry.
Londy grew up in Clermont with her parents and three sisters. “I had a fairly liberating upbringing,” she says – adding that she went to a local school where maritime studies was introduced as a subject. “It wasn’t appealing because I didn’t know how to swim, so I literally chose the subject because I believed in horoscopes and being a Pisces made the decision much easier,” she laughs.
“I am a typical Piscean who dreamed about being a mermaid and literally chased the title,” says Londy. One morning in 2007, she was on a ship standing at the focsle (bow). “It was so beautiful to witness the sunrise, the dolphins chasing the bow, and the wind blowing against my face… I thought of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. I was only 19 years old as a cadet, and branded myself the Blaqmermaid – which today has lived to be a solid brand in the maritime industry.”
A ship navigator’s job, simply put, is to navigate (drive) a ship. “I worked for Maersk Shipping Line for a very long time until I was a third officer, and then I moved on to work on dredgers in Africa,” says Londy, who believes authenticity and boldness are the top two qualities needed for a woman in a male-dominated industry. “With both these qualities, the stereotype of a ‘man’s world’ can easily be wiped off. Yes, you have to keep proving yourself, but in the end the job will be done and it will be done in heels.”
For Londy, the sea brings a lot of harmony and peace. “There’s no noise, no traffic, no social pressures. Just the rare fascinating sights of mother nature,” she says.
Having mostly done West African and the Far East and European routes, Londy admits it was always hard being away from home for long periods of time. “Being homesick is common for seafarers, but usually our families understand that after some time, being at sea becomes more than just a job … but rather a lifestyle. It’s hard to say goodbye to your loved ones, but seafarers are essential workers and contribute 90% to the global economy,” she says. “My best memories are those where a ship’s route went via South Africa, so my family could visit me onboard for a few days and bring me home-cooked traditional meals.”
It was six years ago when Londy stopped working at sea and moved into her role at Transnet National Ports. She later established her own maritime consulting company, which has enabled her a way into a family life on the shoreside, and now lives in Hillcrest with husband, Sbusiso, and their six-year-old daughter, Sama.
As a mother and wife, Londy is passionate about women and youth empowerment. Her experience has equipped her with the ability to focus on providing sustainable tools for women to thrive, and her zest for life encourages the youth to think outside the box. “Many African kids look up to the Blaqmermaid brand. I strongly believe that above all accolades is our ability to educate, hence I have founded Global Maritime Youth – where we cultivate pure love for the ocean and facilitate skills supply and demand through global collaborations.”
Amongst many others, Londy recently won the Veuve Clicqout Bold Women Award 2022 – competing with 450 nominations from all over the world. “Bold authenticity is simply walking in flow towards your highest self and staying true to that flow in every platform you occupy,” she says. “It requires a lot of inner work, vulnerability and a sense of purpose in order to define your service to the world. Being recognised for my own life flow, with its ups and downs, is nothing short of wholesome.”
There’s certainly nothing stopping this inspiring motivational speaker and powerful businesswoman.