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Lockdowns leave future seafarer sitting on the sidelines

Lockdowns leave future seafarer sitting on the sidelines
Jonathan Boonzaier 25 June 2021

Covid-19 restrictions have prevented Indian cadets like Rachel Rebello from taking the exams needed to complete their qualification

Anglo-Eastern Maritime Academy (AEMA) cadet Rachel Rebello is impatient to begin her seagoing career as a deck officer.

She has been waiting since last October to sit the final exams required to secure her certificate of competency as a second mate.

That is because Indian government-run examination facilities have been shut due to Covid-19 restrictions.

When TradeWinds spoke to Rebello in June, she said that they were expected to reopen soon, and she hoped to complete her certification by August and finally begin her maritime career.

“I miss sailing,” she said.

TradeWinds first met Rebello on a visit to AEMA in 2016. At the time she was 18 and one of only four female cadets at the Karjat-based facility.

Anglo-Eastern said that three of the women continued with their maritime careers, while the fourth was forced to drop out due to family reasons.

Rebello had only good things to say about her time at AEMA and subsequent training at sea.

“The pre-sea training was very important. It played a key role. When I joined my first ship I already knew the equipment and how it all worked,” she explained.

“On the ships all the engineers and officers were very supportive and taught me everything they could.”

Rebello’s sailing experiences included a containership, a bulk carrier and a general cargo ship.

“I loved them all, but I especially liked the bulk carrier because of the long sailing times. It gave me plenty of opportunity to learn on the bridge, which is the main thing for me,” she said.

“I want to try a tanker next,” she added.

As an only child Rebello faced resistance from her parents when she first decided to become a seafarer. She said their opinion has completely changed.

“They are so proud of me. For them it is a very big thing.”

Rebello is very conscious of the orthodox Indian way of thinking that women should stay at home after getting married.

However, despite it being a concern, she said she would not let it stand in the way of her goal to become a captain.

“I will complete that goal 100% no matter what the cost,” she concluded.