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Making her mark in a man's world

By unknown | Apr 09, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Not many people, particularly women, find the port industry interesting.

Not many people, particularly women, find the port industry interesting.

But Portia Ndlovu, a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the few black women who have discovered this male-dominated field and has immediately found her space.

She was drawn to Maritime Law and decided to specialise in it.

Maritime Law, also referred to as Admiralty Law, governs the regulatory law pertaining to the use of the sea.

It governs maritime activities and private international law governing the relationships between private entities that operate vessels on the oceans.

It also deals with matters including marine commerce, marine navigation, shipping, sailors, and the transportation of passengers and goods by sea.

Determined to make her presence felt in this area of law, Ndlovu, who holds an LLB and a Masters Degree in Maritime Law, found that books in this highly specialised field were scarce and costly - and decided to write a book that students would find easy to read.

"Most books in the field were outdated and the only updated book, by the University of Cape Town's Professor Hare, costs up to R1000," she says.

She says with her book, titled South African Law of Carriage of Goods by Sea: Common Obligations in Charter Parties and Bills of Lading under English and South African Law, she wants to expose her students to new ideas on the law and to make a contribution by providing updated material.

"I want this industry to be a place where it is normal for a black woman to be in the port industry, that's why I'm a teacher. I want young people to find their place in this field and to make a difference," says this dynamic woman, who is also a trained athlete and dancer.

She says it took her four years to write the book and she spent the fifth year looking for a publisher.

"I approached all the big publishing houses, but they told me that there wasn't a market for the book. It was encouraging to know that they liked the book and they were very positive, but I wasn't going to wait for the market. I invested in getting the book out to my students," she says.

Ndlovu is thankful to a number of people, including her colleagues at the university and her supervisor, Professor Hilton Staniland, for inspiring her to achieve her dream.

"I worked with him (Staniland) very closely and he was phenomenal. He made me see the importance of the port industry. He would ask me to teach his Masters classes where there would be lawyers and judges and it was quite intimidating at the time, but I'm a thinker and I love to research, so everything fell into place. I am an academic and I love what I do," said Ndlovu.

Ndlovu has been approached to be a legal adviser for the port regulator. She is studying towards her PhD and is in the process of completing her thesis on Diamond Laws.

"I'm hoping to turn my work into a book as well. It would be a useful contribution and exposure to the industry, which would show the riches of South Africa.

" It's a lot of work. I work around the clock, but I don't mind. I don't have any family responsibilities yet, so I'm using my time wisely," she said.

Ndlovu has not only made a difference to her students and earned respect in her chosen profession, but has also emerged as a rising star determined to make a difference.

"She is an outstanding role model not only to her colleagues but also to young women who may be considering a career in law, especially in the area of Maritime Law which has long been male-dominated," said Professor Managay Reddi, acting Dean of Law at UKZN.


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