By Kenneth Jukpor
Mrs. Rollens Macfoy is the President of African Women in Maritime (WIMA) Nigerian Chapter. She is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ocean Deep Maritime Services Limited. In this exclusive chat with MMS Plus, she reveals how she emerged a successful manning agent and first female owner of a Maritime Academy in the country. Macfoy also shares her thoughts on gender discrimination and other biases in the maritime sector as the world marked International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022. WIMA-Nigeria organized a summit to celebrate IWD and Macfoy shared these thoughts with our correspondent after the conference.
A recent study by a Swedish University has revealed that more than 50 percent of all women seafarers have been subjected to bullying. As the world celebrates IWD, what are your thoughts on this statistics?
This is another issue of gender discrimination and male chauvinism. The truth is that females are coming up and showing that they are indefatigable. These females are professionals and they are more aware of the things they can achieve. In a country like Nigeria, this bias about females is still there but it makes women more daring because they have to think faster and smarter than their male counterparts.
WIMA-Nigeria was set up to address this conflict and bias via gender advocacy. As we take this message to those that matter in the executives and legislators, we also engage the regulators and top agencies in the maritime sector. I’m excited that women have emerged in the maritime industry that’s still rated as a male-dominated sector. We have seen more women as ship captains, Engineers, at the operations level, some of the best workers are women. Women are also top maritime lawyers, in the manning sector women are doing better and all these developments raises fear in the opposite gender and that’s why we are seeing the high level molestation. Instead of the men showing discipline and leading with their skillsets having dominated the industry for decades, they have decided to become abusive and deploy chauvinism.
I’m expecting the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to rise up to address this matter but all maritime stakeholders and authorities must equally make moves to address this bias in every country. This is an ongoing battle that has to be sorted out. Any man who molests or bullies a lady with his position isn’t a leader. If you are a Human Resource person or the leader of a crew, you must have the psychology to understand the worth terrain and prevent molestation of women. At this level, the HR person in the company or ship captain at sea should be able to curb also traces of women bullying. This should be part of the training for such leadership roles. In fact, any captain on board where women are bullied should be sacked and the punishment should be more grievous, if the ship captain is the one doing the bullying. In most cases, we find that the male ship captains are sentimental in handling these issues. That’s why a female ship captain fares better because women aren’t sentimental. There must be gender balance and equity in maritime and other fields of endeavour.
As part of efforts to empower the girl child, WIMA-Nigeria has pledged to purchase Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) forms for 15 female students in Lagos State. What inspired this?
I have always been someone who delights in adding value to lives and the society at large. This is because I appreciate the fact that apart from my parents, a lot of people played a role in my life to enable me reach the height I have attained today. All these investments have made me become a philanthropist.
Ocean Deep Maritime Academy offers five scholarships to seafarers every year. Some of these seafarers passed through Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, others graduated from the Institute of Oceanography and we keep training them. Besides that, for every cadet that comes to register in our company, unlike other manning agents, we don’t accept payments from them. We talking about students that just came out from institutions and are searching for where to do internship; where do we expect them to bring monies for registrations? Some manning agents don’t like taking such cadets because they can’t afford to pay or they feel that it will be a waste of time in their business. We don’t just take them but press further to place them onboard vessels. There are some ship owners that will insist that they don’t want cadets, so we reach agreement with them to pay our cadets unlike they conclude their training onboard the ships. I think this is a selfless service that I enjoy doing but I wish more people in manning can think like this.
You’re the only Nigerian female Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a Maritime Academy and you have distinguished yourself as a unique and professional manning agent. How did you break the bias in this sub-sector and what additional values do you instill as a woman?
When I started Ocean Deep Services Limited, I began to observe that the seafarers who were coming to be placed onboard were not properly guided on the courses they should have done. Some of them were graduates and others weren’t but they did several courses because someone asked them to do so without understanding what courses are required for their respective areas of specialization. Most times, as an administrator I quickly observed that they have both deck and engineering certificates. When I asked where they belonged, there couldn’t answer. I began to sheave them and mentor them. I had to find out what they were really interested in doing. Was the interest in engines or navigation? These were mentoring and counseling services I was doing for gratis.
I found that there is a lacuna because a lot of ship captains and engineers know the job and have good certificates, but it takes more than the certificate to be a good manager. These seafarers have to be able to coordinate themselves and other people around them in manner that would enhance productivity. To address this problem, I started a leadership course and in this process I realized that ship security was just been introduced. This was around 2011 or 2012 and most of these seafarers didn’t have the certificates. Most of the institutions in the country were not training people in that particular course. So, I told myself that this is an area I could delve into.
I had to go back to school at Lloyd’s Maritime Academy where I did ship security in Dubai. I got the certificate and I applied to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). At NIMASA I was told that anyone who intends to delve into maritime education must have what is called “train the trainer”. I went back to school again to get the required certification. After that, I applied and they came to inspect our venue, the classes, books and lecturers and we were accredited.
Since I interact with a lot of international maritime experts, I found out Marlins Maritime Academy in Scotland have a lot of courses and we went into partnership with them. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Marilns such that our Academy represents Marlins Academy across the West African sub-region. So, that’s how we have been operating. We train seafarers and we also place them onboard vessels. We train ashore staff as well as shore staff and we also manage vessels.
Following this beautiful outing to mark IWD 2022, what are the other WIMA-Nigeria programmes outlined for this year?
We intend to have a major event in August. It would require lots of stakeholders as we intend to go into big philanthropic business. We are also scheduling for serious and impactful mentorship for women in maritime. The association equally plans to enhance the operations of women in the fishing sector and lots of other permanent investments for women in the sector.
This association is an NGO and the other way to go about it is to be impactful. So, we already have another major programme scheduled to take place in August and we hope all major stakeholders would seize this opportunity to reach out and invest in women.