She Mans The Ship

Seafaring is a physically demanding job that is supposedly more suited to men. Most women seafarers are hired in cruise ships and ferries, and very few get to rise among
30 Sep 2015 09:58
She Mans The Ship
Deputy Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport Lui Naisara (right) presents Captain Susana Balekana with her award. Photo: MSAF

Seafaring is a physically demanding job that is supposedly more suited to men.

Most women seafarers are hired in cruise ships and ferries, and very few get to rise among the ranks.

In a country that has one of the narrowest gender gaps in the world, the seafaring industry remains lamentably male-dominated.

Individuals like Captain Susana Balekana, however, are helping to slowly change the mindset.

Her contribution to the shipping industry and representing women was recognised in last week’s World Maritime Day celebrations in Suva.

Captain Sue as she is fondly known received a Certificate of Recognition of Women in the Shipping Industry by the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF).

Having studied and served in the shipping industry for 18 years, Captain Sue has overcome all challenges in her career because of her faith and zeal.

Appreciative of the recognition, Captain Sue encouraged young girls who want to take up seafaring to take that leap of faith.



While she says that the experience is hard – where women tend to face all possible kinds of discrimination, it is one that can be overcome through sacrifices and hard work.

She completely agrees that life of a seafarer is not bed of roses – it is challenging, mentally and physically.

“Women seafarers face many difficulties and hardships but trust yourself and have the courage to face your fears.

“If you have an unconquerable will to win, victory will never be denied. Every job has its positive and negative aspects. It is the positive ones we must reflect upon,” Captain Sue said.

In an earlier interview, she pointed out that if a man had to work thrice as hard to prove himself, a woman had to work 10 times harder.

“When I work in the ship, I never look at it as a man’s world.

“I work on owning it and work on overcoming that challenge. Today, i am used to it and that is exactly what other women should do.”

Working on-board ships is fun and challenging at the same time for her.

“Everyday has been a learning day,” Captain Sue said.

She learned while working.

“Each day comes with a new hope, a new beginning, a new lesson and a new bunch of challenges. There is never an end to learning new things. It is enjoyable.”



She joined the School of Maritime Studies, Fiji Institute of Technology in 1997.

She served her sea time as a cadet on various local vessels MV Temauri, MV Bulou ni Ceva, MV Reef Escape, before she completed her cadet with Islands Salvage & Towage Ltd, PNG where they sponsored and employed her after she graduated.

In 2002, she graduated with a Certificate in Deck Apprentice and 2006 with Diploma in Nautical Science (Watch keeper) & Diploma in Ship Operations. She took up her first command as a Master in December 25, 2004, in PNG with the same company Islands Salvage &Towage Limited.

Here she undertook a lot of voyages into international waters, Singapore, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Noumea, Solomon, and Fiji.

She served seven years as a Master in PNG and holds a Certificate of Competency Class 3 Master/Watchkeeper issued by the MSAF.

In 201,2 she returned to Fiji and joined Bligh Water Shipping Company as Chief Officer on both MV Westerland and MV Suilven.

On the same year she joined Tidewater Marine as Chief Officer on their offshore supply vessel D’Souza Tide and Redel Tide. 2nd Officer on Reef Express from 2012 to 2013 before she joined Pacific Marines & Civil Solutions as Chief Officer and later as Master.

In her career, Captain Sue also represented Fiji for the Regional Conference on the Development of a Global Strategy for Women Seafarers Conference in Busan, South Korea 2013.


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