Scope for Women in Merchant Navy
Last updated on August 23rd, 2023 at 10:34 am
Merchant Navy since its very inception has been a male-oriented profession. The maritime industry opened up its arms to women in the last couple of decades. According to the data released by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), there are around 2% of women seafarers in the shipping industry worldwide and 1% in India. The following blog will take you through the opportunities and scope for women in merchant navy.
However, with time employment opportunities for women in the Maritime Sector have increased tremendously. According to a recent survey, there are an estimated 24,059 women seafarers serving onboard, which is a 45.8% increase compared to the report from 2015.
Initiatives Undertaken by IMO for Women Seafarers
In the last few years, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has taken an active initiative to increase the involvement of women in the shipping industry. In 2019 The Maritime Day’s theme was declared “Empowering Women in Maritime Community”. The IMO Assembly also adopted a resolution that proclaimed that the 18th of May would be recognised as ‘International Day for Women’ in the Maritime Industry.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done to significantly increase the ratio of women in the maritime sector. In this blog, we discuss the scope and future of women in Merchant Navy.
Career Opportunities Onboard
Although the IMO’s gender program was started way back in 1988, it has only been in the last few years that the shipping industry acknowledged the huge gender disparity in the maritime sector. The last few years have seen a lot of rigorous discussions and talk about increasing the participation of women in Merchant Navy.
Today there are a lot of above-average shipping companies that are actively recruiting women onboard their ships to increase the inclusivity of women in this field.
The opportunities for women onboard are the same as for men. There are three departments in Merchant Navy –
- Deck Department
- Engine Department
- Saloon Department
The deck department onboard is managed by licensed deck officers under the supervision of the Captain/Master. The deck officers are primarily responsible for the safe navigation of the vessel. However, their duties also include handling the maritime cargo onboard, supervising the maintenance of the deck and upper hull structure, maintaining the stability of the vessel including loading and discharging ballast water, carrying out mooring operations, and anchoring the vessel.
There are two ways to join the deck department as an officer –
The Engine department onboard is managed by licensed engineers who are responsible for the operation, maintenance, and repair of engines, boilers, pumps, generators, and other machinery important for the vessel’s safe operation. These engineers work under the supervision of the Chief Engineer who is the head of the engine department.
Although, the majority of girls interested in joining the field of merchant navy, prefer the deck department over the engine department. The major reason for this preference is that girls consider the job of a deck officer to be easier than that of an engineer. Deck officers have more of a “White Collar Job” as they have to work in air-conditioned bridges or cargo control rooms most of the time. On the other hand, engineers have to work in hot engine rooms with temperatures of almost 40 degrees centigrade throughout the day.
There are three ways to become an Engineer Officer onboard –
- B.Tech/B.E. in Marine Engineering
- Graduate Marine Engineering
- Diploma in Marine Engineering
Women can also pursue the Electro-Technical Officer course through which they can serve as an Electro-Technical officer onboard. An ETO is a member of the engine department and works directly under the Chief Engineer. They are responsible for the operation and maintenance of all electrical equipment and machinery onboard.
This department deals with preparing and serving meals to the ship’s crew, maintaining and cleaning the galley and mess room, accommodation decks, etc. There is no officer in the Saloon department and although women can join this department if they want, it is not advisable. Most shipping companies are still a bit hesitant to recruit women in the crew department and hence job opportunities for women are less in this department when compared to others. But in case you’re still interested to join this department then you can pursue GP Rating.
The ship’s crew consists of officers and ratings, wherein the officers are involved with more important tasks onboard, ratings serve onboard to assist the duty officers and for other physical menial tasks such as carrying out maintenance on deck/machinery, cleaning/wiping, painting, de-rusting, etc. As mentioned above although women can join GP Rating if they want to, it is not advisable as the job opportunities are very limited for women in GP Rating. Candidates who pursue GP Rating can join the Deck/Engine/Saloon side as a rating.
Shore Based Career Opportunities
The jobs and career opportunities in Merchant Navy are not just limited onboard but include a plethora of job opportunities in shore-based offices. Below we list some of the onshore career options for women once they decide to quit sailing.
- Harbour Management & Pilotage
Ports are some of the biggest sites for employment in the shipping industry. These ports have to evolve continuously in order to keep up with the competition. As a result, they require talented and skilled people to grow. Technical work, administration, management, vessel traffic services, and pilotage are some of the employment options in port operations.
- Maritime Lecturer
There are a large number of maritime colleges that require professionals who have first-hand experience of working onboard to serve as lecturers in their respective institutions. Seasoned seafarers, who have worked onboard can commit themselves to such institutes to educate the next generation of budding seafarers.
- Maritime Author
Becoming a maritime author is an alternate career option for experienced seafarers. Such veteran seafarers know exactly what is required from junior officers for them to clear their competency exams. They can write books that can prove to be effective in aiding aspirants to gain an in-depth understanding of various topics.
- Maritime Surveyor
Any seafarer who holds the certificate of competency as a Master on a foreign-going vessel is eligible to apply for the post of a class surveyor who is responsible for checking the seaworthiness of a ship. The same goes for any engineer who holds the certificate of competency as a Chief Engineer on a foreign-going vessel.
- Ship Broker
Shipbrokers are negotiators between the ship owners and the charterers who use ships to transport cargo. This profession has grown in popularity in recent years and it requires detailed knowledge about ships and cargoes, methods of loading and discharging various cargoes, etc.
Initially, girls can feel a bit out of the loop on a vessel as the rest of the crew members will all be males most of the time, but once they get accustomed to the ways and culture of working onboard a ship then there’s nothing that can stop them as we all know how mentally tough women can be.
It is a job that requires an individual to be mentally strong as one has to stay away from the comfort of his/her home for a span of 6-9 months. A major reason why girls are discouraged from joining the merchant navy is the existence of orthodox social norms present in our country, and the idea of girls being delicate.
Despite all the recent efforts by the IMO and the national governing bodies of various countries, there is still an astronomical gap between the employment of men and women in the shipping industry. However, in the current scenario, many shipping companies are undertaking active initiatives for increasing the number of women in their workforce both onboard their fleet and at their shore-based offices. Moreover, successful woman marine engineers and deck officers have now become an inspiration for many girls who dream of sailing on the high seas.
“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”Marilyn Monroe
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