In honour of International Women’s Day today, we spoke to a group of women from across the industry about their work as seafarers and asked what advice they would give to others wishing to follow the same path. In the second part of our three-part feature, meet Katie, Nidia, Vicky, Gemilys and Heather...
Katie – Deck Officer Cadet, Australia
Ship type: Offshore Supply Vessels
Type of work: My role is to assist and understudy the Officer of the Watch in maintaining the navigational watch, as well as being involved in shipboard operations such as cargo loading/discharge, DP Operations, bunkering, mooring, anchoring, and shipboard maintenance, as well as being involved in safety inspections of ships equipment and keeping publications and records accurately up to date.
Time as a seafarer: I’ve been going to sea for five years, and have been completing my cadetship for the past three years.
Path into the industry: I became a seafarer after travelling and sailing on tall ships around Australia and internationally. I begun my training in 2017, starting a Bachelor of Applied Science (Nautical Science) at the Australian Maritime college, and am only three months away from gaining my Officer of the Watch (Unlimited) Certification.
Best thing about being a seafarer: The incredible environment that we get to work in – being out at sea is beautiful and amazing, but at the same time you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature every day.
Most challenging part of working at sea: The isolation from friends and family, and in my industry the isolation from other women (I’ve worked with two other women in my three years in the industry).
Favourite memory from a voyage: Sailing up to Singapore and crossing the Equator for the first time!
Top tip for women wanting to work at sea: Have lots of faith in yourself, and remember that even if it is hard and lonely sometimes, you’re not as alone as you think.
Nidia – 1st Officer Safety, Panama
Ship type: Cruise ships
Type of work: I’m in charge of all lifesaving equipment inspections and maintenance, and I am also a watch keeper officer during 8 hours per day.
Time as a seafarer: I have worked as seafarer for 9 years
Path into the industry: I studied three years in a maritime university in Panama and one year training at sea as deck cadet to become officer.
Best thing about being a seafarer: The chance to meet people and visit many places around the world.
Most challenging part of working at sea: The huge responsibility of transporting safe people and/or cargo from one place to another.
Favourite memory from a voyage: My favourite memory is from a specific day, my birthday. After a very exhausting day transiting the Panama Canal, we docked in Colón, Panama and my parents were there with my sister waiting for me to see me for a couple of hours, but after so many months that was my best birthday gift.
Top tip for women wanting to work at sea: For all those women wanting to work at sea, the best thing you can do is follow your dreams and never give up.
Vicky – Engineer Officer Cadet, UK
Ship type: Motor yachts ranging from 45-78m, and then during my cadetship I’ve been working on cruise ships
Type of work: As a cadet I work under the supervision of the senior engineers, and have assisted with various jobs like major engine overhauls, tender maintenance, monthly maintenance jobs on the machinery, and undertaking watch-keeping duties around the engine room.
Time as a seafarer: Have been working at sea for 6 years, but recently went back to school to begin my cadetship which will open far more doors for me in the future.
Path into the industry: Originally I was employed in the yachting industry, completing the basic courses like the STCW training, and slowly built up my experience and further certificates from there. Now I am with Warsash Maritime Academy and have started a whole new style of training which is far more beneficial for me.
Best thing about being a seafarer: The places you go, the people you meet and the relationships you form along the way.
Most challenging part of working at sea: Being away from home, although the communications available are much better now than they were, so staying in contact with family and friends is much easier – it’s the dog and the cliff top walks I tend to miss more!!
Favourite memory from a voyage: There are so many! There have been some incredible sunsets and sunrises, and some breath-taking scenery along the way – the untouched shores and mountains of Alaska have to be my favourite so far.
Top tip for women wanting to work at sea: Don't be put off by people offering advice on 'how difficult it would be for a girl like you to survive in a man’s world at sea' – they don’t know you and what you’re capable of. I was told this on more than one occasion, and all it has done is fuel the fire. It is only a man’s world because it is still a male majority – we can change that – get out there and be that change. If I can do it – you can too!
Gemilys – Deck Cadet, Venezuela
Ship type: I'm on board a crude oil tanker
Job title: Deck cadet, but will be 3rd officer after graduating
Time as a seafarer: I’m actually doing my internship. I have five months on board.
Path into the industry: I was told by my mother about this career and I felt interest on it because it was a non-common work for me. I started my studies at Maritime University of the Caribbean (UMC). As I am now on my training period I'm still learning about this job. I'm studying a lot, doing maintenance on deck and learning day by day.
Best thing about being a seafarer: Being able to travel around the world by sea, meet people from different countries and cultures and working with them on board.
Most challenging part of working at sea: Being away from my family for long periods of time, being unable to be present at special moments of a family member or friends, and maintaining a stable relationship.
Favourite memory from a voyage: Every day of my training period is a memorable experience. For me, my first time on board is my favourite memory.
Top tip for women wanting to work at sea: Today, women have shown that we can perform any activity successfully, so I invite them to not be afraid to follow their dreams, I'm making mine come true. Women are able to function in this profession as much as men. We must always give 100% of our effort and show that we are capable of much more.
Heather, 2nd Officer DPO, UK
Ship type: My career has been predominantly offshore vessels, from PSV, to MPSV and Dive Support
Job title: 2nd officer DPO with a chief mate's unlimited ticket
Time as a seafarer: Since 2010
Path into the industry: I studied BSc Marine Studies (Merchant Shipping) at Plymouth University from 2005 to 2009, I was a uni student opposed to a nautical college cadet, I just did my two NVQs on top of my university studies, and my third year was spent at sea.
Best thing about being a seafarer: There are many things that are great about being a seafarer, but the best thing has to be the time off. Especially now I have children, and getting to spend quality time with them in such a solid block of time, it's amazing.
Most challenging part of working at sea: There's no denying it though, being away from my baby girls isn't easy, so that can be very challenging.
Favourite memory from a voyage: On the Toisa Wave, transiting the Suez canal, approaching and passing under the Al Salam Peace bridge whilst listening to the main theme from pirates of the Caribbean with the sun shining down and a gentle breeze in my face. It was majestic.
Top tip for women wanting to work at sea: You don't have to prove a point to anyone or go on some sort of power trip just because you're female, the guys (especially the deck crew) will respect you more if you get on as if you were one of them. Have banter with them, be nice to them and they will have your back, always.