Article

Marine pilot Devan Pulliah (TNPA) reminisces on his journey


published on 15 October 2020 74 -

Article published by www.RisingSunOverPort.co.za

As for gender equity, Devan believes that there is no room to hide in this industry.

As a navy veteran with seven years experience, mainly on strike craft, Devan Pulliah joined Transnet in 1997 to become a tug master in East London before being enrolled in Transnet National Ports Authority’s class of 1999 to help change the future of the maritime industry.

He qualified as a marine pilot and in 2003, was deployed to the Port of Durban- where he learned all about controlling fear, regaining calm, and managing incredible pressure.

“There were only about 14 of us when 22 were needed. I have never worked so hard in my life. It was also the first time that I was being transferred onto vessels by helicopter. My heart would be pounding as I was lowered onto the vessel, which would often be rolling beneath me. It was before the entrance channel was widened and you had to go at an angle at full speed to get the vessel through the current. Some days, you barely got back on dry land before you were back in the helicopter going out to sea to bring another vessel in,” he recalled.

Those early years were difficult, and mentors such as Tsietsi Mokhele, Gerry Staverees and Don McGhee helped protect the young pilots as they gained experience in the South African port system.

As for gender equity, Devan believes that there is no room to hide in this industry.

“Over the years, I have seen and trained the ladies on the water, and they are as good if not better than the men. You can’t fake it in this job, and women have pushed the boundaries. In management roles they are more subtle, and intuitive, which is definitely a positive," he added.

As a senior pilot, Devan continues to play a vital role in supporting the South African Maritime Economy- as a relief pilot to the Ports of Port Elizabeth, Ngqura and Mossel Bay and is also understudying to relieve at Saldanha, in addition to his responsibilities in the Port of Cape Town.

There are not many like him in the port system, as you have to understand the port and the different weather conditions in order to bring a vessel safely into port. Devan’s thirst for excitement means he is always up for the challenge.

More recently, TNPA has also developed its own insourced aviation service, manned by a new generation of helicopter pilots and avionics engineers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, taking its transformation agenda to the skies.
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