Ebinipre Robinson Canus is the first female West African captain of ASD tug boat. In this interview, she talks about how she became the first female captain of ASD tug boat in the entire West Africa, some of the challenges she encounters as a female seafarer and other sundry issues.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
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My name is Ebinipre Robinson Canus. I am from Bayelsa State, and born by Dr and Mrs Robinson Canus 29 years ago. I am from a family of 8 (5 boys and 3 girls), I am the fifth child and also the first girl.
I attended Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) Primary School and then Nigeria Navy Secondary School (NNSS) Port Harcourt, Rivers State. I later moved to Benny International High School Bayelsa State and for college, I attended University of Cebu in Cebu city Philippines through the help of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the year 2013 where I studied Nautical Science.
What are your main duties as a captain of ASD tug boat?
There are a lot of duties as seafarers – safe navigating from one place to other, maintenance of the vessel, and lookout for safety.
I have worked with Depasa Marine Limited on their hopper dredge and LTT Coastal and Marine limited on their tug boat.
Being the first female captain of ASD tug boat, can you tell us what the boat is all about?
Azimuthing Stern Drive (ASD) tug is the tug with two azimuth thrusters under the stern. It performs the majority of towing operations over the bow, from a winch mounted on the fore deck.
A tug boat is a small but powerful vessel, which is used for harbour towage. It is used for berthing and unberthing of bigger vessels. This boat is called an ASD 2810 which means an Azimuth stern drive which is able to turn 360 degrees because of its thrusters.
A tug or more commonly a tugboat is a secondary boat which helps in mooring or berthing operation of a ship by either towing or pushing a vessel towards the port and is a special class of boat without which mega-ships cannot get into a port. Along with the primary purpose of towing the vessel towards the harbour, tug boats can be engaged in the purpose of providing essentials such as water, air, etc. to the vessel.
It eases the manoeuvring operation of vessels by forcing or tugging them towards the port. Mega vessels can never be manoeuvred by their own. Also, with the increased size of the boat, they need tug boats to carry some of their domains and tow them through narrow water channels.
Also tug boats become essential elements for non-self-propelled barges, oil platforms, log rafts etc. Tug boats are small rather powerful due to strong structural engineering behind them.
Some secondary functions of tug boat along with easing mooring operation are; they can work as salvage boats and icebreakers, they can also have fire fighting accessories so as to provide fire fighting assistance in port or barges, they are the most important marine element, as they act as saviour to the boat in hard times such as in narrow canals and bad weather, The name Tug Boats gives a fair idea about the size and task of the vessel, they are relatively smaller but very powerful for their size.
How did you get scholarship from NIMASA to study in the Philippines?
It all started from the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme NSDP, and I got to know about it through a family member who asked me to come and take the exams, which I did and, by God’s grace, I passed. I never chose the Philippines, it was NIMASA that chose Philippines for me and I never regretted it because I believed it was God’s plan. On getting there, I taught I could study marine medical because I have always hoped to be a medical doctor but to my greatest surprise, there were only three courses to pick from – Nautical Science, Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture. Then, I had no understanding of the major roles of these three courses so I decided to research on them to have more knowledge to be able to choose one.
After the research, I decided to study Nautical Science which is all about navigation, leadership, management and maintenance. And that stage, I felt like I needed to be in charge. I have always dreamt of being a leader and taking charge.
Although I had it at the back of my mind that it is a male-dominated profession, I still believed I could make a difference as a female. I am not there to compete with anyone, mine is to do my best and let the world know that even as a female, I can still succeed in the profession and have an outstanding record.
What challenge do you encounter as a female seafarer?
There are lots of challenges in the area of welfare and salary. Most Nigerian seafarers are not well paid and most Nigerian companies do not accept female seafarers for a reason I don’t know.
A lot of them feel that the place of a woman is not onboard but in the kitchen, but this can be corrected only by giving the females the chance to prove themselves.
Companies should accept females and give them the same work as their men counterparts. Imagine if I was not given the chance to prove my self, I would not have been who I am today.
How do you feel now that NIMASA has given you an offer to work with the agency?
I have not yet received any letter to that effect yet. It was just a pronouncement by the DG during the celebration of the word Seafarers Day on June 25 this year. I hope the offer will become a reality so that I can give back my best to NIMASA. I know they believe and understand that as long as a man can succeed through this maritime field, a woman can also succeed, if only given a chance.
I want to specially thank the person that trained me on the tug boat and Captain Ned Kuzma, my late father, my mother and my entire family and friends as well as NIMASA for supporting me to be who I am today.