YEAR OF THE SEAFARER | Barriers to women

WE WERE pleased to see Sarah Breton take command of P&O Cruises’ 1982-built, 44,588 gt Artemis, the first appointment of a female master of one its cruiseships in the venerable company’s 173-year life.

We do wonder why a company, at this late date, would write a press release about it and why Lloyd’s List would deem it news, rather than another fine example of professionalism winning authority due to merit. But it is news because of the relative scarcity of female masters.

The UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency has a record of 36 female masters. That group is drawn out of a pool of 25,000 seafarers in the UK. A woman taking up seafaring as a vocation has a slim chance of becoming a master under today’s conditions.

Peter Cardy, the head of the MCA, is exiting his post at the end of the month. A signal contribution during his tenure was to advocate a more inclusive maritime industry. Mr Cardy, in these pages, suggested that one obvious cure for the perpetual shortage of officers was to recruit women more effectively.

“As with other previously male domains,” he wrote, “to overcome the barriers requires senior role models not being the sole female on board, assurance of privacy and personal security, and clarity from the master and company about behaviour.”

That these factors are not guaranteed by owners may offer a clue to Britain’s shortage of women applicants despite the efforts of the government, the industry and the Merchant Navy Training Board.

Source: Lloyd’s List

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