Port profiler pre-empts potential pandemic problems

27 May 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202019217

Disaster Management
Harbour Infrastructure & Shipping
Import / Export
Materials Handling & Bulk Handling
Safety
Security

THERE was just one-minute left on the clock when Nosipho Citi applied for the job that would change both her career path, and the face of Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) in the time of COVID-19.

In November 2019, Citi was appointed as the port authority's first ever Vessel Control Profiler. Currently based in the Port of Richards Bay with the Security Department, Citi is the first port of call for any vessel making its way through the port’s waters.

When she took on the role, Citi had no idea how vital she would be to operations while ports steered through the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the global escalation of the virus, Citi’s job description has now expanded to ensure that Port Security teams are made aware of possible high-risk vessels entering ports. She liaises with security organisations regarding vessels to ascertain if adequate security measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Citi also processes Outer Port Limit applications ensuring that these meet the same high security standards as those adopted along the quayside.

Port profiler pre-empts potential pandemic problems

“I am still doing my job as originally intended, with a slight change due to the amendment in the MARSEC Security Level from Level 1 to Level 2. In essence, it is a higher level of security with many more restrictions on movement. I now form part of screening and record-keeping of all persons boarding vessels, as well as keeping track of gangway registers and Declarations of Security – an agreement between port and vessel security which ensures all health and safety precautions have been adhered to,” Citi said.

Citi’s intervention was required early on during the national lockdown period.

“TNPA put an operational plan into place which allowed our security department to identify high risk individuals. Within a few hours of implementation, there was a breach and the various port security sectors were able to find the individual and have them safely removed from the port. I was really appreciative to experience TNPA Security OPS, Vessel Profiling, Permit Office and the CCTV Control Room working together to achieve a positive outcome.”

A former South African Police (SAPS) officer, Citi was looking for a change when she came across the job application on the TNPA site last year.

"I remember it very clearly, it was 11:59 pm, close to midnight on the last day of the application process when I pressed send on my application. I came here from another type of job, from a different environment and nothing about this job is the same. No two days are alike, but I saw the opportunity and knew I had what it takes to succeed in this space.”

The role of a Vessel Clearance Profiler – a new position within TNPA and its eight commercial ports – is a multi-faceted one. In addition to serving as a liaison between the port and vessel agents to ensure that all vessels passing through the Port of Richards Bay are cleared to enter as per detailed company procedure and required legislation, Citi’s duties include working closely with Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) and the Marine Security Co-ordination Centre (MSCC).

Her role involves staying abreast of international legislation surrounding international issues such as terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling, stowaway movements as well as nuclear and weapons of mass destruction – something Citi explains is both challenging and rewarding.

“Vessel profiling is interesting in that it requires the processing of lots of data gleaned from various sources, both overt and confidential in some cases. The profiler must be able to identify possible threats, which could be imported into the port from a particular country, port or vessel. At the moment, I am creating databases which will aid future analysis and identify trends that will ensure the safety of our port,” she said.

Port of Richards Bay Port Manager, Thami Sithole said Citi’s appointment was a proud moment for the KwaZulu-Natal port, the King Cetshwayo District and the City of uMhlathuze.

“The Port of Richards Bay is proud to be the home of the first Vessel Control Profiler to serve the country – especially during these challenging times. We are also thrilled to do our part in levelling the playing field in terms of gender equality – something we strive for at our port,” he said.

Citi, who grew up in Mzantsi Location in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, hopes her appointment will act as an inspiration to other women, particularly those from rural backgrounds and serve in traditionally male-dominated industries. She cites her young daughter as one of her reasons for pushing for personal success.

“My daughter has seen the hard work that I have put in, studying while working. She now has the opportunity to complete her studies without the burden of being at work at the same time. Much as it can be done, it is not easy. I have tried to set an example for her so that she can understand the importance of education in the modern workplace. To other women I say, you should never lose hope, press on and study. The hard work that you put in will eventually pay off.”

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