Women on Board: Supporting Women Seafarers and Strengthening Crew Retention

Events, News

This International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate the dedicated women seafarers who play a vital role in global shipping. However, while we honour these women, we also want to draw attention to improvements that can be made to ensure the health and wellbeing of women seafarers.

While there is a gender imbalance in the shipping industry, the industry cannot afford to overlook the passionate and hard-working women who are actively contributing to global trade. Given the increasing shortage of crew, there is a pressing need to actively attract and retain qualified crew members. Therefore, it is crucial for the shipping industry to pay attention to the unique health and wellbeing challenges of women seafarers. By doing so, the industry can ensure that these women seafarers remain motivated and continue to contribute to the success of global trade.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), women only represent 2% of the world’s 1.6 million seafarers. Nevertheless, our 2019 Women in Shipping study found that women seafarers are highly motivated and dedicated to their work. Despite facing challenges related to gender imbalance, these women actively chose this profession and are passionate about their roles at sea. With the current shortage of crew, it is essential that the shipping industry takes steps to recruit and retain these talented women seafarers by ensuring health, wellbeing, and job satisfaction.

Women seafarers experience unique challenges compared to their male colleagues. Our 2019 study revealed that nearly half of the women surveyed had experienced gender discrimination at work, and two-thirds felt they had to work harder than their male colleagues to prove themselves. The study also showed that women seafarers face social and mental wellbeing challenges. For instance, many reported wanting more group activities, struggling to get enough sleep, and lacking someone to talk to. Their overall stress levels were also higher than the global average. Given that human error is often the cause of maritime accidents, it is crucial that the shipping industry pays close attention to the unique health and wellbeing experiences of women.  

Clearly, improvements must be made to ensure women’s health and wellbeing at sea. By implementing policies tailored to female seafarers, promoting gender equality, creating clear channels for reporting indecent behaviour, offering maternity benefits, and using gender-neutral language, the shipping industry can cultivate safer, more inclusive environments that attract and retain qualified women seafarers.

Women seafarers play an important role in the shipping industry, and their passion and dedication should not go unnoticed.

To learn more about our health studies, click here.