Careers

Seafarers: High School Dropout Proves Critics Wrong

Mr Gonevakarua’s advice to youngsters who dream about becoming a seafarer is to: “Trust in God. Focus on your school work and study hard.”
23 Jan 2020 10:06
Seafarers: High School Dropout Proves Critics Wrong
Momo Levu na Tui Vuda Ratu Eparama Kitione Tavaiqia (centre with garland) and family members. Photo: Salote Qalubau

Jitoko Gonevakarua has come a long way to where he is now.

Mr Gonevakarua is the captain of MV Fiji Princess, a local tourist vessel owned by Blue Lagoon Cruises.

MV Fiji Princess accommodates up to 68 guests and measuring 179 feet (55 metres) in length; she travels to the Fiji bays and islands that would be impossible to reach in a large ship.

“First it never occurred to me that I’d be a sea captain as when I was young, I hated traveling by boat. I get seasick every time but now I don’t get seasick,” Mr Gonevakarua said.

The 49-year-old hails from Narocivo Village in Nayau, Lau and has maternal links to Nasegai Village in Kadavu.

The father of two said it was through the encouragement of his cousin that he joined the marine.

“I was initially a casual worker at the Rewa Dairy Company when milk was sold in glass bottles; that was many years ago before I ventured into this journey,” he said.

“I started off working for a scuba company. I always wanted to become a soldier but my father didn’t want me to because he said it was too dangerous as that time Fijian soldiers were going to Lebanon.

“My cousin was then running a boat company and asked me to join him.

“In 2002, there was a request from the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) for sea captains as there was a shortage of such.

“Since I had worked for fishing vessels and passenger vessels, I was given the green light to study at the maritime school.

“I did not finish Form 4 (Year 10) because of peer pressure.

“Some of my friends and cousins doubted that I can achieve my certificate because they knew I did not complete high school.

“They said the course was hard and I would not be able to complete it.

“To prove them wrong I took this career path and have never regretted that decision.

“It was one of the best decisions that I have ever done. I have been a seafarer for 22 years now.

“I was lucky that my brother was the one that paid my fees at the maritime school.

“I am the only one in my family who is in this field.

“Despite the fact that my dream work was different from what I thought I would become; God’s plan is always the greatest.”

MV  Fiji Princess.

MV Fiji Princess.

The former Lelean Memorial School student lists his hobbies as fishing, meeting new friends and snorkeling.

“I received my ticket in 2003 and I became the captain for Snapper a small tourist vessel that transported food for the Castaway Hotel,” he said.

“In 2004, I was called by the Blue Lagoon to be a mate for them.

“In 2009, I went back to school and I paid my own fees through my Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) and received my ticket for Diploma in Nautical Science in 2010.

“In 2011, I became the captain for Fiji Princess until today. I am grateful to the Blue Lagoon for giving me a chance for a better life.

“My journey to be where I am today was not an easy one but I am glad that I never gave up when the journey became difficult.

“What challenged me to be a captain was when I was working on an inter-island vessel, our captain used to stand on the bridge and supervised us while we sweated in the cargo area.

“I told myself that one day I would be standing like that too. Now I am where I had wanted to be back then.

“My motto in life is to do my work to the best of my ability.

“This is something I always do and I am grateful to be where I am now.”

Mr Gonevakarua’s advice to youngsters who dream about becoming a seafarer is to: “Trust in God. Focus on your school work and study hard.”

“Love your work as you love yourself.”

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