Nomkhitha Mbele

Fendercare South Africa

What does your company do?

My company specialises in Ship-to-ship (STS) transfers, a process of transferring goods and services between ships positioned alongside each other at sea, which is a game-changer for the global maritime industry. This operation occurs near the port without the need for a ship to be berthed inside a port. This has led to more ships passing the South African coast being supplied with marine services and products. The increased shipping volumes have not only boosted the economic activity of the maritime industry but also marked South Africa as a key player in the global maritime economy. In addition to many other benefits, STS reduces congestion and pressure for ports and is able to service very large ships that cannot be accommodated inside South African ports. STS plays a critical role in all maritime operations, significantly enhancing the efficiency of the maritime sector of coastal countries.

What is your biggest success?

My journey in the maritime industry spans over 15 years, and I have a genuine interest in developing the maritime sector and its contribution to the South African economy. In 2017, I played an instrumental role in establishing Fendercare’s (a global multinational) operations in the South African market, which was the first of its kind. In 2020, I completed a major BBBEE transaction with the UK-listed holding company to acquire a majority stake in the local company, Fendercare South Africa. I am the only black female shareholder in this type of business in our industry. I am currently serving as the Regional Director of Fendercare South Africa, overseeing all its operations in the SADC region. To further enhance economic transformation in the maritime industry, in 2022, I also acquired a stake in Subtech South Africa, a global specialist provider of marine solutions. I also serve as the non-executive director of the company.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

Being the first in South Africa, we experienced challenges in making the government understand the scope of our business. We had to provide evidence of how our operations are carried out in other African countries. The second challenge was the alignment of the standards of operation as they were not yet available in the country. We worked with the government to ensure that the highest International Standards were in place to protect the integrity of our business and the industry. This has taken a long time as our government moves slowly to update legislation. This has limited the market growth opportunities for all players in the sector, which in turn limits the potential growth of the company and the ability to create more job opportunities, boost competition, and promote economic growth. These are crucial for the development of the maritime sector for the South African and global economy.