Twenty seven year-old Nicole Gouvias has become the first female alumnus of the Simon’s Town School’s Lawhill Maritime Centre to obtain her internationally-recognised Master’s Certificate of Competency (Unlimited), the qualification which permits her to command a ship of any size.
Nicole – who dreamt of being a ship’s captain from a young age – is currently serving as Chief Navigation Officer on board containerships within Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping line.
She joined Safmarine as a cadet immediately after completing her studies at Simon’s Town School (which she attended from Grade 1 to Grade 12) and graduating cum-laude, from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
Simon’s Town School is the only school in the Western Cape offering two maritime subjects (Maritime Economics and Nautical Science) and Nicole, inspired by the example of an older sister, became a top achiever in these subjects from Grade 10 to 12.
She received the internationally-recognised Masters Certificate of Competency (Coc) in April this year.
Doing so was the final step in achieving her dreams of being in command of a ship, as its Master or Captain. As Chief Navigation officer she is currently second in command on board vessel.
Reflecting on her maritime journey, she is quick to praise her former maritime educators, Captain Godfrey Schlemmer and Mr Brian Ingpen, as well as the many retired sea captains who inspired her during their visits to the school.
“I always enjoyed the stories told by Captain Schlemmer and the other retired shipmasters and it made me want to go out and make my own stories.
“Having the opportunity to do the maritime subjects at Simons Town School also made University chartwork exercises so much easier.
“I benefitted enormously from the constant words of encouragement of my maritime educators and the time Captain Schlemmer took to help me with chart work helped me be the person I am today.”
Not having to commute in traffic every day is one of the reasons she loves her chosen career as a sea-going Officer. “I simply roll out of bed and into a new and exciting, hopefully challenging, day.”
While her career has taken her to many parts of the world – with Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Portugal, China, USA. Argentina, Madagascar and Australia among her favourites – one of her goals is to see more of her own country, South Africa.
A passionate animal lover, Nicole also enjoys spending her time caring for abandoned animals on her smallholding outside Stellenbosch.