Growing up in the under-developed Eastern Cape awoke the desire in Sibongile Ngumbe, National Ports Authority
’s (NPA) first female Port Engineer, to contribute to improving the lives of people in the region.
With her recent appointment in this position at the Port of East London, she is now set to realise her vision of making a difference, by further developing the motor hub port.
Sitting in her office, overlooking the Port of East London, Sibongile (30), says she decided to become an engineer when she learnt, during her matric year, about the great number of opportunities a career in this field could offer.
Following her graduation with a degree in Civil Engineering, from the University of Natal in 1995, she started her career with Scott Wilson Consulting Engineers where she worked as a junior engineer from 1996 to 1998. She then joined Ninam Shand Consulting Engineers where she held the position of design engineer until January 2002.
The first years of her career involved work on water supply, housing and urban and rural development projects in KwaZulu-Natal. She had not been exposed to coastal engineering as a consulting engineer and the opportunity to join the National Ports Authority in 2002 was a welcome one.
Said Sibongile: “NPA was a dynamic company, on the verge of change. Working in the port engineering field would allow me to contribute towards developing the country's port infrastructure.”
On joining NPA as a senior engineer she was tasked with the responsibility of port development and maintenance in East London. She soon found out there was ample opportunity to develop and was soon acting as port engineer as the former port engineer, Vonk Claassens, was promoted to Chief Engineer at NPA Head Office.
Referring to her appointment she says she was overwhelmed by the confidence the NPA and port management have shown in her.
“Firstly, it was exciting for me that management thought I was ready for the responsibility and secondly, I realised they were truly committed to the development of their staff.”
What served as an inspiration to Sibongile to achieve great heights in her career was her upbringing and the honest and hard work of her parents.
“I was brought up to work for what I wanted and I didn’t want the hard work of my parents to be in vain.”
The small-built, shy port engineer enjoys the fact that her job enables her to stand back and look at what she has achieved, once a project is completed.
As the Port of East London’s port engineer, she is looking forward to seeing the development plans for the port come to fruition.
Her first major project in the port has been the deepening of West Quay were the current draught of 9 metres is to be increased to 10,7 metres. The R 13 million project is due for completion in December this year.
“I want to see East London making its mark in the South African port system. The port’s efficiency will make a big difference to the economy and will be instrumental in bringing about further development in the Eastern Cape.”