EThekwini Maritime Cluster\'s (EMC) nine day long Welcome to the Water Campaign that ran from the 21st to the 29th of June 2013 in Durban, created a big splash and lots of opportunities.EThekwini Maritime Cluster\'s (EMC) nine day long Welcome to the Water Campaign that ran from the 21st to the 29th of June 2013 in Durban, created a big splash and lots of opportunities. Whistle the campaign\'s solemn aim was introducing young people, some of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, to water related careers it generated a fair amount of excitement amongst the 48 youngsters, who were enjoying their winter school holidays during Youth Month. The youngsters consisted of students from fifteen high schools and four FET Colleges spread across two coastal municipalities.

In a collaborative effort EMC with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDT), EThekwini Municipality, Ugu Municipality, South African Navy, Transnet National Port Authority, Southern African Shipyards and KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, used the Welcome to the Water Campaign to promote the awareness and address the scarcity of critical maritime skills.

This particular group of students would be ready for employment when the new dig out port, In the Durban South Basin, earmarked to be operational in 2019 is completed, hence this programme served to create capacity ahead of demand.

The campaign\'s structured programme of events ensured that these youngsters were provided with exposure to careers in hydrography, the South African Navy, commercial diving, sailing (through an introductory sailing course), port operations and marine operations.

They also got to enjoy the viewing of a street parade by the SA Navy, SAPS and SA Army celebrating World Hydrography Day, a tour inside the SA Navy Ship the SAS Protea, a sea trip on the Durban coast to provide them with exposure to seafaring and navy careers, diving and swimming lessons, a three day yacht hand sailing course and a visit to Transnet\'s ship simulator for a practical experience in navigation.

The campaign was not without positive spin offs. A group of hospitality students from Coastal College were offered work opportunities at the Durban July, by My Gourmet the catering company during the campaign. Mkululi Ngwabe received a bursary for an advanced sailing course by Offshore Sailing Academy, after rowing his team to victory in a cardboard boat race competition of the Durban International Boat and Lifestyle Show, and Ayanda Khwashube from New Forest was recipient of a commercial diving bursary.

Finally, the youngsters were presented with certificates for participating in the campaign and successfully completing the sailing course, at a prize giving ceremony, by Mr Bongani Shezi from DEDT on behalf of the MEC, Councillor Logie Naidoo, the spokesperson of EThekwini and Mr Wandile Mzamo, Chairperson of the EMC. Whereupon a letter from the youngsters, addressed to the MEC requesting him to further support this programme, was read out.