MARAD hosts historic graduation

DPI, GUYANA, Saturday, 30 September 2017

The graduation of marine cadets by the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) was made historic as four women were among the first batch of 16 marine pilots.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson, MARAD’s Habour Master Michael Tennant (next to Minister) and MARAD’s Director General Claudette Rogers pose with the 16 graduates

“We have challenged every stereotype and shattered that glass ceiling in a typically male dominated realm. We see ourselves as trailblazers and we are hopeful that other young women take up the mantle after us,” grandaunt Sheryl Wilson said at the graduation ceremony which was held at the Umana Yana on Friday.

One of the top graduating cadets, Sabita Sookdeo, noted the “feeling of accomplishment we feel today is truly surreal” as she recounted the training her batch underwent over the last five years.

“Through it all, we had a quote that we stuck to ‘winners never quit and quitters never win’. Today we stand proudly and declare that we are winners simply because we didn’t quit despite the many stressful days and nights,” Sookdeo said.

MARAD introduced the marine cadet programme in 2012. The five-year programme encapsulated theoretical and practical training in areas such as ship organisation, seamanship, lifesaving appliance and firefighting equipment, tides and current, stability and ship construction, radar plotting among others.

Guyana’s first ever female marine pilots (from left to right): Venessa Merchant, Sheryl Wilson, Sabita Sookdeo and Abiola Hickson pose with their certificates

Vanessa Merchant noted that as women in the marine industry they’ve had to overcome biases and other challenges while working on vessels during their practical training.

“Some persons out there believe that women have no business on these vessels and should be homemakers and not their boss. Accommodations on these vessels were not conducive for females…nevertheless we remained focused on our job,” Merchant noted.

Abiola Hickson credited their achievement to the support from their fellow cadets and MARAD throughout the programme. “Thank you for supporting us, you were like our brothers through this programme,” she told her male cadets.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson challenged the 16 grandaunts to “let our vision be broad and modern and break the shackles of mediocrity” as they carry out their work in the maritime industry.

Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Simona Broomes presents the valedictorian Keon Hestick with his prizes

“We must aim for excellence, excellence must become our first nature and imbedded in modus operandi. We must understand that we operate in an industry that transcends our area of work and our big picture is that we are facilitating the grand scheme of development of this country,” Minister Ferguson told the freshly minted pilots.

Minister Ferguson stressed the importance of a strong regulator in the industry and noted that the government, through her ministry, is working to ensure that capacity is built at the regulatory level.

Even as MARAD increases its training programme, Minister Ferguson charged the administration to ensure that the programmes “are relevant for now” and “have merit and content to advance us into the future”. MARAD is also reviewing the legislation that governs regulations in the maritime industry with the aim of strengthen the regulatory body.

By: Tiffny Rhodius

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