Skip to main content

OP-ED Women in Shipping

You have not heard from me in over a week, as I have spent the last week in Sweden in advance of the Women's International Shipping and Trading Association's ("WISTA") International Conference & AGM in Stockholm, Sweden which was held September 14-16. In advance of the trip, I asked one of the Conference organizers (thank you Lena Gothberg!) to assist me in arranging business development visits in Sweden. It was this process of arranging these meetings with strangers that led me to what can best be described as an epiphany--with women reaching out and grabbing the most coveted jobs in the world, we need to work harder to support each other in making inroads in this male dominated industry.

It first helps to consider the reasons behind the fact that this is a male dominated industry. There is certainly a lack of women as merchant mariners. Life onboard is tough for anyone--something that breaks even the most stoic individuals. I've been told that women feel out of place on ships primarily because of the nature of the job which may require quite a lot of manual labor. And since women are often looked as the “weaker-sex”, some are skeptical of whether a woman has what it takes to endure such harsh conditions. However, I do not think these are the main reasons as to why there are so few female merchant mariners.
090609 8312 300x225 Reasons Behind the Lack of Women Officers in Maritime Industry
Since the beginning of mankind, whether we want to recognize it or not, there has been one cardinal rule: men will earn and women will take care of the house. Though we have come "a long way baby" to quote an old 70s commercial, the idea of women leaving their homes for months at a time while trying to manage a family is something not many can relate to. Many men find it intimidating and frustrating when a women leaves home for so many months to go away on a job. Even if a woman continues to sail after marriage, chances are, she will give up her post at sea when she starts a family. The situation is so different for women who work shoreside, as they see their children in the morning on their way to school or day care and again at the end of the day. With a job as a merchant mariner, not being able to see their children for months on end may be simply too much of a sacrifice for a woman.
women at sea Reasons Behind the Lack of Women Officers in Maritime Industry
I think it will be a while before we see women venturing out at sea without any hesitation and fear or choosing life out a sea for their entire working lives. Though times are changing and many companies are hiring women crew, I believe it will take longer for husbands to actually appreciate their wives' chosen profession to sail and travel around the world. For those of us that work shoreside, we still have the "pull of sea", which can, on occasions, be baffling to our life partners. We receive that late night phone call (invariably on a holiday) from a Captain seeking assistance. Our clients and working partners are typically in another country, which requires us to travel extensively. We may be called away on an emergency basis to attend to a ship casualty or other emergency, missing children's birthdays, school plays and other important life events. These and many other variables, I think, are at the root of why women do not choose this profession. In my case, the profession chose me and I am happy it did.

The WISTA Conference discussed issues related to mentoring and supporting our fellow women in shipping. This is a welcome "call to arms", as given the difficulties I have very briefly highlighted above for women in this industry. It will take our working together to increase our numbers in the industry. I believe my hosts in Sweden gave this a running start--now more of us need to consider assisting our fellow sisters in this endeavor. Thank you WISTA Sweden--let's hope this is the beginning of more support for each other.

If you wish to reach me, you may email me at or


Popular posts from this blog

Maritime Law--U.S. Crewmember Required to Arbitrate Claims Applying Norwegian Law

In Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 15-14775 (11th Cir. Aug. 23, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that a U.S. citizen, working aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship is required to arbitrate his claims against Royal Caribbean.
Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presented an issue of first impression: Whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls o…

Maritime Law--Tour Boat Captain Implicated in Tragedy Off Nicaragua

As reported in the Daily Business Review on January 25, 2016, Nicaragua's police, army and navy will investigate the captain of a tourist boat and his assistant for the deaths of 13 Costa Rican passengers killed on January 23rd when the vessel capsized in bad weather. The Reina del Caribe, Spanish for "Caribbean Queen," was carrying 33 people when it went down Saturday amid rain and strong winds as it ferried between the Corn Islands, a popular tourist destination, off Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. The Daily Business Review article can be accessed here=> Daily Business Review article.

The government clarified on the 24th that the boat was carrying 25 Costa Ricans, two Americans, two British citizens, a Brazilian and three Nicaraguans. Previous reports had said there were 32 people on board, including four Americans. All the dead were Costa Ricans.

Nicaragua's naval commander for the southern Caribbean region said the boat's captain was detained because the …

Maritime Law--Lawsuits Filed Over RCCL's "Storm Cruise"

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd ("RCCL") faces lawsuits by passengers accusing the company of negligently endangering their lives by letting Anthem of the Seas sail into a February 7, 2016 storm.  One class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami specifically states that RCCL should be required to pay punitive damages to passengers on its ship for "knowingly sailing directly into" a strong winter storm with 120-mph winds. It is also alleged that people aboard the ship were "subjected to hours of sheer terror as the gigantic cruise ship was battered by hurricane-force winds and more than 30-foot waves."

The vessel reportedly encountered 100 mph winds and 30-foot waves, and RCCL said the storm was more severe than expected. RCCL later turned the ship around, and it returned to New Jersey on February 10. Anthem of the Seas’ port azipod reportedly burnt through “all four clutches” during the storm. RCCL reported four minor injuries among more than 6,000 p…