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The Woman at the Helm of Port of Call Consulting

As it is Women’s Month, I’ve decided to tell my story with the aim of encouraging other women with an entrepreneurial spirit, to reach back and dust off those closeted dreams.

I was born in Pietermaritzburg, the capital city of Kwazulu Natal, in South Africa, where I also started my schooling. I went to a number of primary schools in KZN – an unsettling experience – but fortunately completed my high school career at one school, being Kloof High.

My work career started when I was in high school, and covered a number of industries, of which all were based on dealing with clients, leading me to feel comfortable in a client-facing business from an early age.

I completed an Advanced Computer and Secretarial Diploma after school, however the entrepreneurial spirit was high, and I had the ambition to do something more. I had from a young age always felt the desire to run my own business and thus set about achieving a BCom degree in Marketing and Business Management from Oxford Brookes University, via Damelin College.

I was then selected from a large group of hopeful candidates to do a participate in a prestigious Cadet course through Daimler Chrysler, in the motor industry.

My interest in the maritime industry began via my uncle who was involved in the industry, at “Ports in South Africa”.  Via his interest, I was exposed to these incredible, large sea-going vessels and wanted to put what I had learned while completing my degree into practice while working in this faster paced environment. This led me to being employed at a commercial diving company based in Durban, South Africa as a Marketing and Sales Consultant, and my passions was ignited!



I soon identified a gap in the commercial diving market, allowing me to fulfil my goal of owning my own company and putting my degree to the best use. I founded and financed Port of Call Consulting cc in 2009, where we have been offering underwater vessel maintenance in ports around the world ever-since.

The learning experience is ongoing, and I have been fortunate enough to see Port of Call Consulting growing, while also being able to make the necessary changes in the company’s journey, to keep up with our clients’ growing needs for quality service delivery. We maintain our focus on safety and a zero tolerance for bribery and corruption. We wanted to signify this with a number of changes in 2022, including the renewed identity of Port of Call Consulting.



My personal ambition comes from maintaining a strong sense of independence, possibly born from the many school changes I went through at a young age.  I am passionate, persistent and driven to be great at everything I do. I don’t ever want anyone to be able to say that I wouldn’t have something if it wasn’t for them. Everything I have, I have worked for and earned, and I want to pass that onto my daughters one day, while also teaching them that it is ok to ask for help. When people tell me I can’t do something, I have a visceral reflex to say, ‘Yes, I can’.

The shipping industry is a great proving ground, so to speak, because as a woman in a male dominated industry, we get to work alongside men, working together with great service providers to provide our clients with the best service they need. Equally we are working with our clients to keep their vessels performing at optimum performance. I get to excel in a high pressure and demanding environment, and this in turn keeps my ambition well oiled.



On the physical, tangible side, vessel schedules and weather conditions are always changing. One also has to contend with physical safety, and changing environmental laws within port and countries. The combined result is that not all services are permitted in all ports, and dive team’s might not be available on short notice. However, Port of Call Consulting’s flexibility and vast network means that we can arrange work in many ports worldwide in order to provide a workable solution, fast.

When it comes to non-tangible things like politics and economic, these conditions also play their challenging part.  However, although there have been tough economic trading conditions worldwide in the last few years, there have been many great strides and much noticeable progress achieved in the advancement of women in the maritime sector.

For us South Africans, one of these achievements to be celebrated was the appointment of Ms Nomatemba Tambo as President of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) General Assembly in 2019, this was a first for both South Africa and for women. Internationally the IMO declared the 18 May as the International Day for Women in Maritime. According to the council “the observance will celebrate women in the industry, promote the recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector, raise the profile of women in maritime, strengthen IMO’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) and support work to address the current gender imbalance in maritime.” As a proud WISTA South Africa member I certainly celebrate the IMO’s goals as well as the initiatives like “Women in Shipping” and “Women in Maritime”.

I have also personally found the industry to be increasingly inclusive and some of my clients are pleasantly surprised when they realise that they have been dealing with a female on very complex technical underwater jobs.

I am Nicola Willmott, female business owner, Port of Call Consulting cc.


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