Getting women on board
Shipping has always been a male-dominated industry but it looks set for a sea change.
'Strengthening the role of women in the maritime sector' has long been a focus of the International Maritime Organisation, declared its secretary-general, Efthimios Mitropoulos, and never more so than now with 'the increasing problem of finding sufficient adequately trained personnel to manage and operate the world's growing and sophisticated merchant fleet'.
Delivering his keynote speech to the 2009 Annual Conference of the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (Wista), he lauded the principals and ambitions of the United Nations Women in Development initiative and declared the IMO's commitment to helping achieve them, whilst acknowledging that women remain under-represented in sea-faring roles and 'still face discrimination because of ingrained cultural attitudes.
'The principal objections to employing women at sea would appear to centre on the lack of adequate separate facilities for women on board and the physical requirements inherent in the work. The traditional perception that seafaring is a man's job can lead to lack of training and work-experience opportunities for women, compounded by employers' reluctance to appoint those women that are trained.'
The existence of Wista, an international organisation founded in 1974 for women in management roles in the maritime industry, is testament to women's enthusiasm for the field. Since introducing the Women in Development Programme in 1989, the World Maritime University has seen its intake of women students multiply five times over, reaching 30 per cent in 2009, and three of the six directors in the IMO secretariat are women.
Mitropoulos said: 'There is no intrinsic reason why women should not participate in, and benefit from, employment within the shipping industry. However, it is clear that, to achieve this, there is a need for changes in attitude towards employing women as seafarers; recruitment of women in the shipping sector generally; and increased maritime training opportunities for women.'