#LearningCurve | Ship-shape from start saw them sailing

South Africa’s first black-owned ship-building company has put the Bay and the Eastern Cape on the map

Fabian Crocker, Taneal Crocker and Clinton Crocker.
Fabian Crocker, Taneal Crocker and Clinton Crocker.
Image: Werner Hills

While Tide Marine Shipyard had a breakthrough when they were granted a major ship-building contract by Transnet, the company is anything but new to the business.

For company director and head of supplier development Taneal Crocker, persistence and patience is the key to building a future in this industry.

Can you give me some background on how the business was started?

Our business started with my late father-in-law, Trevor Crocker.

He and my mother-in-law Helen started this business about 28 years ago in East London.

It was mainly driven by repair work on ships.

When he passed away, my husband Fabian and I decided to continue their legacy.

I was not in the ship-building industry at the time, in fact, I never thought I would ever be in the shipping industry.

But my husband was the major driver behind growing the business.

We relocated to Port Elizabeth where our dream became a reality.

Transnet afforded us the opportunity to tender and by God’s grace we are here today.

What is your core service?

We started out just doing ship repair work, but our core service is ship-building.

The team we have are very experienced and determined, and I have no doubt that our current build will be the first of many more to come.

What makes your business unique?

For the first time, South Africa has a black ship-building company, this makes us the first in the history of the country.

No matter what challenges we are faced with, we do not give up.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

Find your goal, stick to it, don’t lose focus and never give up.

Whatever the service is that you offer, there is always a market for it.

Just follow your heart and even when it seems that nothing is working out, know that the mission you pursue is teaching you a lesson, so learn from it and put everything you have into it.

What were some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before even getting off the ground?

The major factors were financing and entering a very small industry where there are huge competing companies.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

You win some and you lose some. This does not mean you are not good enough, it just means that it may not be for you at that time. Keep your eye on the goal. Sometimes it takes much longer than other times.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

Machinery not working correctly, materials not arriving when they’re expected, incorrect materials arriving . . . the list does not stop.

Every day is a new day to learn and a new day to test how patient we are.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about success?

Start where you are, use what you have and never stop trying.

How do you define success in your business?

Success to me is not about money or who does what the best. Success is about how you recover or learn from mistakes and how you manage to get back on track.

Sometimes there is no way to fix things but one’s attitude moving forward is what defines success.

Yes, we have deadlines and expectations, but ultimately we all want the same thing, so learning to manage and grow from mistakes is what will make a business successful.

What is your target market?

We would like to stay in the ship-building market.

There are no competitors in the Eastern Cape and ship-building is definitely where we want to position ourselves.

What are some of your highlights in running your business?

To see how things grow is just priceless. We started with just family members and now have a staff of 23 people.

Starting out with just one plate of steel and seeing it grow and be engineered daily is honestly priceless.

How important is social media and an online presence for your business?

At this point it is extremely important, our port has hundreds of ships coming in and out of our harbour and in the past they have always docked in Cape Town or Durban or Saldanha Bay.

It is now important for us to make our imprint on social media to provide ship owners with our details if they ever need assistance with repair work or manufacturing.

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

We would love to have offices in all the harbours, but we do believe that the Eastern Cape is where we will start our legacy and we are happy with just being able to maintain the workflow here.

What has been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Port Elizabeth?

Our entire project is a challenge but the fact that it is a first for our area makes this a huge opportunity.

It is also a huge advantage that we are able to put the Eastern Cape on the map for future builds.

How important has mentorship been to you in your journey as entrepreneurs?

It is of huge importance! Mentorship does not have to come from the most educated person or the most successful person in the room, mentorship can come from a three-year-old child.

I honestly think every person that enters our lives teaches us something, it’s just a matter of applying what you need and discarding what you don’t need.