I am Lekha Rovani.
I still remember holding my father’s hand as we strolled along the waterfront at Ernakulam. Pointing out the inner dock, he explained what a ship was. Though I could hardly pick up the vocabulary, I fashioned the image of a huge craft with the sun shimmering on its superstructure and its hull reflected in the water. It was love at first sight.
When my parents saw that I wanted to join the merchant navy they did everything they could to ensure I had all possible support. They led the horse to the water, and it certainly drank in what was on offer at maritime college, where the curriculum included physical training and survival skills. As we all toughed it out and inched towards completing the course, the little girl from Kerala was being shaped into a sea cadet, and following graduation there was no better joy than being placed with Synergy. The feeling when you are accepted by a leading company is indescribable.
The day finally arrived when I gazed in awe at a massive, beautiful ship and realised that I was soon to become part of the image that I had formed as a child. My first vessel was a gas carrier and the next two were container ships. Both taught me much about these trades and gave me experience of two very different paths.
Until recently, the shipping industry had been wholly male dominated, and just like any woman I had some apprehensions. But those soon disappeared. My seniors gave me equal opportunities in tasks and training so that, like them, I would become tough and fully prepared for the vagaries of life at sea, blending physical strength, safe procedures, regulatory compliance, tact, strategy, planning, teamwork and relationship management.
Each day at sea was memorable. Some were very hard and some were easier, but there was always something new and unpredictable, a notion that all seafarers soon get used to. I also had the privilege of going ashore in some places, and returned with fond memories. Also, being part of a company that uses the latest in communication technology makes it easy to keep in touch with home and family.
It would be wrong to think that, worldwide, bad things do not happen. They do, still, sometimes, and people are fully briefed to report them and they certainly do. But the life and environment at Synergy means that women are and will always remain safe and confident on board, with each of the ships we serve on a workplace but also a beautiful home away from home.
The long history of one woman first achieving something and others following simply reaffirms that there are no limits to what women can do or become. We are part of the evolution in shipping and should be proud of ourselves, every day and in all that we do.