Nonnie Eri has steered her own course and changed the face of shipping in her home country of Papua New Guinea, becoming the first female Loading Master at her nation’s largest gas project export terminal.

This achievement was a decade in the making, taking Nonnie from the ship to shore, where she now has a leading role at the PNG LNG gas project’s marine terminal, ensuring tankers are loaded safely and timely.

The PNG LNG project is a $US19 billion natural gas operation that can produce more than 8.3 million tonnes of LNG a year, sending Papua New Guinean energy to destinations around Asia.

In carving her path at the port, Nonnie has joined a wave of other Papua New Guinean women now rising through its ranks, so that whole shifts are sometimes worked entirely by women.

“I was caught off guard when the vessel’s chief mate asked if only ladies now worked at the terminal for the night shifts,” Nonnie said.

Nonnie said the marine team at the port terminal had typically consisted of only men, but that has changed now.

“At numerous times, I  have had only ladies working with me, from the security supervisors at the gates, storage and loading technicians, to the central control room operators helping me complete loading the vessel.”

Nonnie was part of the PNG LNG team that won the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum’s first-ever Outstanding Safety Performance award for five years of work without a single injury.

Despite seeing more women following in her wake, Nonnie doesn’t dwell on the impact she has had.

“I am indifferent about being a woman and accomplishing this, because I’ve never seen jobs as being for a woman or a man. It’s a job and anyone who enjoys what they do with hard work and dedication to mastering it, can do it,” she said.

Nonnie has always been focused on a marine career, and while she began her working life at sea, she wanted to do more than just sail.

She said the experience of loading her first cargo as a Loading Master at the LNG marine terminal was a mix of excitement and anxiety, and reaching this goal allowed her to close the chapter of her life that initially took her to sea.

“Being on the front end of the supply chain was a great learning experience and also completed the whole shipping cycle for me.”

Despite working her way up the ranks of the Marine Organisation, the port’s chain, Nonnie says she is still open to seeing where the role – and ExxonMobil –  take her.

“I’m willing to go where the wind blows with this job. If it blows me totally off course and onto dry land again, I’m up for it.”


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