More women needed in maritime sector

Women comprise only four per cent of the maritime workforce in Asia and the Middle East, compared with 51 per cent for OECD countries and 24 per cent for Europe.

MARITIME shipping is an integral and vital part of the international trade chain and relies on various components for its smooth and safe functioning.

However, the increasing shortage of maritime talent in both operational and leadership roles threatens the sustainability of the sector. The International Chamber of Shipping’s Manpower Report 2015 estimates a shortage of 147,500 qualified and competent seafarers by 2025.

While women comprise 50 per cent of global talent, the International Transport Workers Federation estimates that they form only two per cent of the 1.25 million seafarers worldwide. Most women seafarers are employed in non-technical positions on passenger ships, while women shipmasters, chief engineers, and other officers are few.

Due to it being a traditionally male-dominated sector, women are either unaware of the diverse and rewarding career prospects within the maritime sector or are discouraged from participating because of entrenched social and cultural biases against them in maritime careers as well as gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Shipping companies are also reluctant to employ female seafarers due to practical obstacles, superstitions, and the perception that they are not as capable as men in handling the rigours of the maritime world. With such obstacles, it is no wonder that women receive little or no support from family and society for a career at sea.

The lack of women role models with long and successful maritime careers, in addition to inadequate access to maritime education and training, also make it more challenging for women to participate in the maritime sector, let alone strive towards leadership positions within it.

For the past 30 years, the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) global programme on the Integration of Women in the Maritime Sector has worked to address these challenges.

The programme focuses on improving access to maritime education and training for jobs at sea as well as careers in maritime administration, ports, and maritime training institutes.

It also supports the establishment of regional associations for women in the maritime sector across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands in creating a global platform to discuss gender issues, provide opportunities for mentoring, networking and continued professional development, as well as in spearheading the promotion of maritime careers at sea and onshore.

Currently, women comprise only four per cent of the maritime workforce in Asia and the Middle East compared to 51 per cent for OECD countries and 24 per cent for Europe.

The Marine Department Malaysia, with the support of the Ministry of Transport and the Maritime Institute of Malaysia, established the Women in Maritime Association (MyWIMA) in 2017 in response to the IMO’s call have stronger representation of women in the maritime sector in Asia.

MyWIMA serves as the National Chapter of Women in Maritime Associations to implement the IMO Integration of Women in Maritime programme in Malaysia. It also collaborates with regional associations for women in maritime through Women in Maritime Association for Asia (WIMA-Asia).

MyWIMA seeks to enhance the role of women in this sector by allowing greater access to a global network of support, sharing of experiences and expertise, and contribute to continued professional development.

It serves as a vehicle to harness their collective expertise and experience in contributing to the formulation of more effective maritime policies and in promoting Malaysia as a maritime nation. MyWIMA is open to Malaysian women involved in the maritime and marine sectors and encourages their participation in areas such as the marine environment and resources, administration, training, and in regulatory and decision-making roles.

Towards this end, MyWIMA will be hosting a Regional Conference on Women in Maritime Asia in Kuala Lumpur in November 2018. The conference aims to strengthen regional linkages among WIMA-Asia chapters and harmonise a regional work programme. It will be a platform for discussions on how women in maritime Asia can contribute towards better ocean governance in the region and globally.

More importantly, the conference offers the opportunity for women in the maritime world to identify role models and to establish support networks that are essential for realising their full potential.

MyWIMA, in collaboration with the Maritime Institute of Malaysia, is also developing a database of women in the maritime sector aimed at determining their demographics in the sector and in compiling a professional directory of women for promotion and networking.

By Amy Aai Sheau Ye.

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