Editorial / 18 May 2024

Breaking down barriers for women in maritime

by Evelina Bjornsson, Group HR Officer & Corporate Recruiter

In an online address to the international maritime community marking this year’s International Day for Women in Maritime, IMO Secretary General Arsenio Dominguez noted that significant steps had been taken “towards promoting diversity and inclusion, not only in the maritime domain, but across all spheres of society”.

Evelina Bjornsson

Celebrated annually on 18 May, this day highlights the important role women play in daily shipping operations, whilst promoting the recruitment, retention and empowerment of women in the sector by being a barrier-free environment.

While the day is an opportunity to shine a spotlight of the challenges women face every day, this year’s theme also focuses on maritime safety: ‘Safe Horizons: Women Shaping the Future of Maritime Safety’.

Safety is not just about ensuring that crew members and those in the maritime industry are secure in their day-to-day operations, but that they have a safe work-life balance and the industry is more inviting for women.

One of the major challenges to entry for women in shipping is making life at sea more inclusive and attractive. In October 2023, the All Aboard Alliance, an initiative of the Global Maritime Forum (GMF), launched its Diversity@Sea campaign to pilot a series of measures to do just that and promote a better work-life balance for everyone at sea. This includes ensuring vessels provide appropriate conditions for menstrual needs, provide 24/7 Wi-Fi for crew members and ensure that all seafarers have access to inclusive and fitting personal protective equipment.

One of the vessels to include these test measures was Synergy’s crude oil tanker Southern Reverence, which left Singapore in October 2023 with Captain Radhika Menon, the first female captain in the Indian Merchant Navy, at the helm.

Speaking about the initiative, Capt. Menon said it sent “a very loud message saying the industry is ready to accommodate women” and “gives a sense of assurance to all the existing and aspiring seafarers that the system is changing”.

The Diversity@Sea initiative follows GMF’s ‘15 Key Pain Points for Women at Sea’ survey, which identified 15 pain points and challenges for women at sea, including:

  • Difficulty for women to succeed professionally at sea, including access to training and having to outperform their male counterparts;
  • Challenging social relations onboard, including women feeling isolated or facing onboard abuse;
  • Employment challenges at sea, including lack of family planning and too long at-sea contracts;
  • Physical conditions onboard, including access to female sanitary products and designated changing facilities and bathrooms.
GAC Ship Agency HK36

Many shipping companies are continuing to make their operations more suitable for women and more inclusive generally. Initiatives such as those from GMF are going a long way to improve the working conditions for women, both onboard ships and working in ports and offices that are crucial to the daily operation of the maritime industry.

The GAC effect
As Arsenio Dominguez noted in his address, the maritime sector offers many prospects for women, from seafaring and engineering to law and logistics, and this is something that GAC embraces in our teams around the world by ensuring people, regardless of gender.

From Angola to Australia and from Sri Lanka to Sweden, GAC proudly provides opportunities for all of our people. We continue to advocate for the very best in our industry to be a part of our journey, be that in shipping, logistics, marine or energy services.

SW 41 GAC Brazil

This is why we align with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals ‘Good Health and Well-Being’ and ‘Reduced Inequalities’ to ensure GAC continues to promote a healthy working environment for women in our global team that plays a vital role in keeping our customers happy and moving.

Today, GAC is honoured to mark International Day for Women in Maritime. But while days like these are important, we work for better inclusion every day of the year.

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