International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 6
Number 3
September 2012
Throughout history, women have always aimed for a
recognized place in society. Society has prescribed
that a woman’s place is usually at home, taking care
of the children. Many feminist movement forced the
issue of women’s rights to come into people’s
awareness These frontrunners have helped redefine
and consolidate the nature of women’s contributions
to society shows that progress has been made.
In today’s society women have access to educa-
tion and can promote themselves much more easily
than in the seventies. Women’s changing role is
happening because women nowadays are educated.
For centuries, maritime history and literature have
treated seafaring as a solely male domain. Although
women have now begun to appear in maritime
scholarships, they are mostly on the periphery. A
few women have been recorded as having travelled
as stewardesses , explorers, or companions to cap-
tains, but on the whole, women did not take part in
the actual running of ships( Creighton and Norling,
1996; Stanley, 1987 in P. Belcher, 2003)
Women on boardships either served as children’s
nurses, stewardesses for women passengers and as
It was only after 1945 when women were regular-
ly recruited as stewardesses, cooks and radio offic-
ers. The first women cadets were recruited only in
the late 60s.
Since the late 1990s there has been a growing in-
terest in training and recruiting women seafarers.
This is largely connected to perceived shortages of
officers in the world fleet.
The latest Baltic and International Maritime
Council (BIMCO) and the International Shipping
Federation (ISF) report suggests that the current
shortfall of officers corresponds to 4 percent of the
total (16,000 officers) and predicts a 12 percent
shortfall by 2010, an estimated 46,000 officers.
As of 2006, the European Commission reported
an estimated 36,000 officers shortfall from the
13,000 officers in 2001( P. Belcher, et. al, 2004).
Owing to the fact that there is big shortage for of-
ficers to man the world’s fleet, the focus now is on
the possibility of recruiting more women into the
maritime profession.
The United Nations promoting women’s em-
ployment and the integration of women into all lev-
els of political, economic, and social development
the IMO produced a strategy for integrating women
Women Seafarers: Solution to Shortage of
Competent Officers?
M. Magramo & G. Eler
John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University, Iloilo City, Philippines
ABSTRACT: This study aimed to determine the participation of women in the seafaring profession. It also
looked into the hiring practices of the different manning and shipping companies in the country. It also tack-
led the hindrances or obstacles a woman seafarer faces in a male dominated world like seafaring. This re-
search utilized the interview approach in data-gathering among the crew managers, and an in-depth interview
with a lone woman seafarer participant.
into the maritime sector in 1988 , when it began to
implement its Women in Development (WID) pro-
gramme concentrating on equal access to maritime
training through both mainstream programmes and
gender specific projects. One of the immediate im-
pacts of the programme has been the rise in the per-
centage of women students taking part in the highest
level of maritime training.
The SIRC/ILO survey in 1995 revealed that
women made up of less than 8 percent in the total
umber of students at the World Maritime University.
Overall, the participation rate of women in seafaring
remains low. Only about 1 to 2 percent of the
world’s 1.25 million seafarers and that most of these
women are form developed countries. The study by
Belcher, et al.(2003) found out that women continue
to constitute a very small part of labor force of sea-
farers. It is in this context that this study was con-
This study aims to determine the participation of
women in the seafaring profession in the Philip-
pines. Specifically, it aims to determine the follow-
1 The number of Filipino women currently em-
ployed on board vessels;
2 Hiring practices and policies of the shipping
companies in recruiting women for seafaring;
3 Reasons why some ship owners refuse to hire
women on board ships
This study employed the qualitative method of re-
search utilizing the interview approach in gathering
data. It aimed to determine the participation of
women in the maritime profession. Likewise, it
looked into hiring practices of the ship owners and it
also intended to determine the reasons why many
ship owners refuse to take or hire women in their
company. The participants in this study are the ship-
ping and manning companies and a woman seafarer
who had been at sea and is now an officer.
4.1 Modes of analysis
On December 9-13, 2007 these group of researchers
proceeded to Manila to conduct interviews with the
different stakeholders in the maritime profession.
The interview focused on different issues confront-
ing the maritime profession. In the light of the many
issues on the shortage of officers, the women remain
untapped as a possible source of the qualified sea-
farers. The first interviewee was Mrs. Virginia Line-
sis, the lady president of K-Line. She was quick in
saying that as far as her company is concerned, they
are not hiring women as seafarers in their company.
She also told the group that Japanese culture does
not allow women to work on board their vessels.
Capt. Jose De la Peña also shares the opinion of
Mrs. Linesis and other ship manning managers with
Japanese principals do not hire women seafarers.
C/M Erickson Pedrosa said his company, the
Walllem Maritime Services are employing women
in the company. He further said: “We have five (5)
women cadets. This company is giving fair treat-
ment to men and women. The entry of women in the
profession will help in the shortage. However, wom-
en are weak emotionally and physically. They must
be trained just like the men and be prepared for the
Capt. Jimmy Milano, the General Operations
Manager of Inter-Orient Maritime Enterprises, Inc.
said they don’t employ women on cargo vessels, but
they have at least two (2) women stewards in the
company’s pleasure yacht numbering about 14. Per-
sonally, though, he is against women employment
on cargo vessels with mixed crew because it could
sometimes spell trouble. But he is also in favor of
hiring women on passenger vessels.
Capt. Rolando Ramos of Unisea, Philippines be-
lieved that women are capable of becoming officers
and doing the work on board vessels, however be-
cause of our culture, women are easily tempted. The
company does not discriminate women as a matter
of fact, the company employs women.
3/M Glena Juarez, a graduate of JBLFMU is now
a licensed Third Officer. She sits as the Assistant
Technical Marine Superintendent at UNISEA, Phil-
ippines, Inc. She believes that women are good in
planning procedures and office work. Women are
different in handling work on board. She adds “all
the things we do are arranged. We have a system of
doing things.”
Asked if she would still continue life at sea de-
spite the fact that she now holds a very comfortable
and a very important position in the office, she
smiled and said “Yes, for me it’s not fulfilling that I
have the 3
Mate license but I did not have the
chance to practice.” The owner’s representative
made her choose between a land based and a sea-
based position. The owners plan to put a junior third
officer on board is a bit longer and for a while she
opted to stay in the office because she also needs to
know how the office runs, how the shipping is man-
aged ashore. Asked how long does she intend to stay
on board. She said: “I don’t want to stay on board all
my life. It’s difficult to stay on board.
When asked what makes life on board difficult
for someone like her, she said: “I guess the envi-
ronment, the weather. The bad weather, you cannot
sleep because you are bothered by the rolling and
pitching of the vessel. And also working with people
on board, there are people who are mean! The entire
working environment makes life on board difficult.
She experienced 36 hours of no sleep because they
have to finish the cargo hold cleaning, because after
6 o’clock we cannot discharge the cargoes. She also
said: “There are times I wanted to go home because
of the people on board.” Even the people from the
engine department would ask her why she joined the
When asked how she was able to finish the one
year contract on board, she mused: I have to prove
that I can survive. The workload is not a problem, I
guess because it’s part of being a seafarer. To her,
one must be aware that sleep on board is not the kind
of sleep you are experiencing on land. To her, while
you are sleeping your mind must be awake because
what if there is an emergency. Alertness is always
there. You cannot say that your sleep is a rest, you
are still awake. For her, just one ring of the phone
she is already awake. She needs to be always alert.
There are also times its fun to be on board having
the chance to visit other places. She also said that
she is proud whenever the captain asks her to clean
the bilge, the strum box or rose box.
Asked if she was able to apply what she learned
in school, she was quick to say: “Yes. Especially
navigation, it was more enhanced on board especial-
ly the skills. I guess you have to love your work in
order to survive.”
“During my free time, I just stayed in my room
watching movies or sometimes talking with other
crew members. Every time there are nasty jokes, I
just listen or just ignored it. Sometimes, I simply get
out of the room or cabin to avoid embarrassment or
being offended by the conversation.
Asked what her job now is in the office; she said:
“I am the Assistant Technical Superintendent. To-
gether with the Technical Superintendent, we com-
pose the Ship Management Team. It’s a new team in
the company; we have a counterpart in the main of-
fice in Greece. We visited the main office of
UNISEA in Greece last October 2007. We observed
how the office is run, how the office operates.
Here in the Philippines, 3/M Glena also works in
the administration department of manning. The
Greek Director told her she is being prepared either
as Human Resource Officer or Quality Management
Representative in the office after her training on
board and in the office.
Capt. Martinez believes that Filipino women are
capable of being officers on board vessels. He be-
lieves that if there are Danish or British women of-
ficers, so can there be Filipinos. He believes that
these women must learn to love this job, because it’s
a tough job.
Mrs. Brenda Panganiban, President of Bouvet
Shipping Management, said she is in favor of wom-
en seafarers in the profession but only for a very
limited time. This is because she will be getting mar-
ried. European principals accept women in the pro-
fession but not in Japanese owned vessels. She also
mentioned that women have different disposition
when it comes to decision making. This opinion is
also shared by the training manager of Maritime
Corporation, Capt.Lexington Calumpang. According
to him “women are for light work only. For the deck
there is no problem because they are on the bridge,
but in the engine their strength must be like that of
the men. For theory women are good. In this compa-
ny, hiring women is preparatory to office job after
their training on board is completed. We have a
woman superintendent from MAAP. She is now the
safety environmental superintendent with a 4
neer license. We have employed two women who
just disembark; they were taken by the company two
weeks after they have disembarked.” He further
stressed that on deck women are slow in decision
making. They rattle. One woman was given penalty
for a year; she is assigned at the office of the princi-
pal’s representative in the training department for
the meantime.
When asked if they have any policy requirement
for women, they too, like men have to pass the ad-
mission exam, interview and the medical examina-
tions. They also have to undergo training both in-
house and in other training centers.
Women on board vessels are usually visited by
the fleet manager to see to it that they are not victims
of any form of harassment from the other crew.
Women seafarers must perform just like the men,
when they become a master mariner they can be as-
signed in the office.
When asked what her opinions are on women
seafarers, Mrs.Carla Limcaoco, Executive Director
and Vice- Chairman of Philippine Transmarine Car-
rier said: “First of all, these are issues of physical
demands. Second, women will eventually fall in
love, get married and get pregnant. But if they are
focused and determined enough then there is no
1 Women seafarers in the seafaring profession are
comprised of only 1-2 percent.
Most of these women are in the steward depart-
ment although there are a few ship owners who
are now hiring women as officers.
2 Not too many of the companies in the country to-
day are hiring women to become officers. The
companies hiring these women are actually pre-
paring them for office positions. Women are
more organized; hence they are more appropriate
to work in the office after they have acquired the
necessary training and knowledge of running a
3 The women who are now taken as cadets and be-
ing prepared to become officers on board ships
must be physically, emotionally and spiritually
tough in order to overcome all kinds of hindranc-
es, obstacles and challenges that may come their
way. They need to think and act properly in a pro-
fession that is male-dominated.
Belcher P. Sampson H., Thomas M. Viega J. Zhao M., 2004.
Women Seafarers: Global employment policies, ILO, ISBN
92-2-113491-1, UK
BIMCO/ISF, 2005, Manpower Update: The Worldwide De-
mand of and Supply for Seafarers Institute fro Employment
Research, University of Warwick.
Seafarer’s International Research Centre (SIRC 1999). Seafar-
ers. Cardiff University, Wales UK
Skei, O. M. (The growing shortage on qualified officers), a pa-
per delivered at the 8
Asia-pacific Manning and Training
conference, November 14-15, 2007. Manila Philippines.