Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Mum-of-three rules - at helm of cargo ship

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Mount Maunganui mother of three Maree Turner at the helm of MV Golden Bay.
Mount Maunganui mother of three Maree Turner at the helm of MV Golden Bay.

During her lifetime Maree Turner has pursued varied and interesting careers in the maritime industry but is now taking on her biggest challenge - taking charge of a cargo ship.

The Mount Maunganui mother-of-three has been appointed Master of MV Golden Bay, a 4193 tonne cement carrier.

Ms Turner said she believed she could be the first woman appointed as captain of a New Zealand registered cargo ship.

During her career she has managed stevedoring gangs, organised cargo movements and helped to plan new container terminals.

After leaving Carmel College she headed for the Union Steam Ship Company and became the third female sea cadet in the country but the only woman in her 1982 intake of 35 cadets.

Ms Turner said she began her on-sea roles as third mate on cargo ships Rotiti, Marama, Ngahere and tanker Amokura, and progressed to second mate, then chief officer.

She finally gained her ocean-going master's ticket after six years at sea, and study periods at the NZ Maritime School.

She's worked on the Sea Link Cook Strait ferry, the gas tanker Tarahiko, and the Forum Line that delivered cargo around the Pacific Islands.

She was also a container planner at Sulphur Point terminal, then joined Mount Maunganui-based NZL Group as a stevedoring supervisor.

Ms Turner said her later career moves had been in corporate roles, including as a private consultant to the industry.

Her role as Master of the Golden Bay has only been in an acting capacity, but should she be offered a permanent position she would grab it with both hands, she said.

"I'm loving it. I really enjoy the challenge and it's a great feeling to be in charge of a large ship. Yes it was a bit daunting at first, but I think it's a brilliant career choice."

Last month, with Ms Turner at the helm, the Golden Bay twice berthed at Tauranga.

When asked what it was like parking a 93-metre container ship at a port, she thinks for a moment.

"The best description I have heard which is most apt, is that it's like picking up a cake of wet soap off a wet bathroom floor. It really depends on the weather how smoothly it goes. In bad weather the ship does move around a lot and berthing it in windy Wellington can be a real challenge."

Ms Turner said her three adult children aged 17 to 22 years and other family members had taken her new role all in their stride

Her partner, who worked in the same industry, was "so supportive and encouraging".

Ms Turner said she hoped her role would inspire others to realise that a person's gender should not be a barrier to anyone pursuing their passion no matter what it was.

"Whatever your career choice is just go for it," she said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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