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Knocks as global maritime sector records 29% women representation

By Adaku Onyenucheya
25 May 2022   |   2:49 am
The maritime community has kicked against the low representation of women and the gender bias in the sector, the newly-published 2021 IMO

International Maritime Organisation

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The maritime community has kicked against the low representation of women and the gender bias in the sector, the newly-published 2021 International Maritime Organisation (IMO) – Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Women in Maritime Survey Report has shown.

The report, which was launched during a virtual symposium to mark the first IMO International Day for Women in Maritime, held on May 18, contains information about the proportion and distribution of women working in the maritime sector from IMO Member States and the global industry.

The theme for the event is: “Training-Visibility-Recognition: Supporting a barrier-free working environment for women in maritime.”

Panelists at the IMO virtual symposium to mark the first International Day for Women in Maritime PHOTO: IMO


According to the report, which highlighted great variation among individual sub-sectors, women account for only 29 per cent of the overall workforce in the global industry and 20 per cent of the workforce of national maritime authorities in IMO member states.

Data gathered from member states, search and rescue teams in national maritime authorities account for significantly fewer women staff (10 per cent) as compared to female diplomats (33 per cent) and training staff (30 per cent).

Industry data showed that women seafarers make up just two per cent of the crewing workforce and are predominantly found in the cruise sector, while in shipowning companies they made up 34 per cent of the workforce. The maritime associations make up 16 per cent.

Also, the towage/salvage/dredging industries accounted for 10 per cent, the bunkering industry recorded 10 per cent, while women employed in the surveyed offshore sector accounted for four per cent.

In marine insurance, women made up 51 per cent of the workforce, while crewing agencies and crew training segments had 55 per cent. Of the companies that had aboard, the overall share of female board members was 28 per cent.

The Secretary-General, IMO, Kitack Lim, in his welcome address at the symposium, said, while women are working in all facets of the maritime sector across the globe to support the transition to a decarbonised, digitalised and more sustainable future for the industry, there is still a gender imbalance in the sector.

He frowned on the result of the global survey, which he said exposed the gender gap in the sector.

He said diversity benefits the entire sector, hence, the need to commit to recognising, facilitating and supporting the contributions of women as key stakeholders to help address the challenges of decarbonisation for a green future.

Speaking on the survey, the President, WISTA International, Mrs. Despina Theodosiou, said it points out the low representation of women in the maritime industry, as it exposes some sectors where there are almost no women present and others where there are elements of parity and equal representation.

She said the survey underscores the low number of women at sea despite the ongoing calamity of seafarers shortage and how to ship owning companies have a reasonably high level of women in senior management and board positions, but the workboat, bunkering, offshore and dredging companies barely touch double percentage figures across their whole workforce.

“What we want to push for, is that this collection of industry data will fuel those who are in a position to create change to do so. This granular data will hopefully give people across different but interlocked sectors, subsectors, and geographical locations, the inspiration to focus their efforts on creating greater gender diversity,” she said

Speaking at the panel session, the Former Secretary-General, Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for West and Central Africa, Mrs. Mfon Usoro, said women have not been accorded due recognition at the workplace.

She said the world should embrace a culture of gender diversity and inclusiveness, especially as governments have committed to it by signing up to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 and IMO gender resolution.

Usoro who is also the President of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Nigeria, said the IMO should ensure governments of the member states and their agencies demonstrate the commitment in their national policies.

She urges govts, private sector to take a cue from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy on 40 per cent women representation on all banks board, which has opened opportunities for more women in the banking sector in the country.

The CILT president also urged the IMO to require governments of member states to submit reports on the status of implementation of the resolution of gender policies and practices as part of the scorecards.

The Executive Vice President, Operations and Assets, CMA-CGM, Mrs. Christine Cabau-Woehrel, pointed out the need to provide the right type of training to attract more women into the maritime industry.

While frowning on the low number of female seafarers, Cabau-Woehrel called for more enhanced conditions at sea, such as crew changes and compatibility to attract more women for efficiency and best practices.

The Manager, Compliance & Safety, Papua New Guinea Maritime Administration, Ms. Dinah Inape-Omenefa, highlighted the importance of mentorship and coaching programmes to encourage women into maritime and support them once in the sector.

She said, while working in the sector is more extensive and technical, there is a need to improve safety and better working conditions for women as well as build technical competence in them.

The Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to IMO, Essam Al Ammari, said more needs to be done on visibility as an important part of this process, as women are underrepresented in the sector.

He warned that while challenges exist, governments should invest in implementing policies for women’s education to remove the gender barriers and ensure their visibility in the shipping industry.

The Executive Vice President, Maritime Policy, and Government Affairs, MSC Group, Mr. Bud Darr, said the maritime sector needs more talents and skill sets recognition to aid its development.

He said bringing women onboard the sector offers arrays of skills, especially in the successful achievement of decarbonisation, which requires a diverse workforce to make better decisions.