UN marks first ever international day spotlighting women working in the maritime industry
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UN marks first ever international day spotlighting women working in the maritime industry

© IMO A trainee chief mate pilots a ship in China. © IMO A trainee chief mate pilots a ship in China.
INTERNATIONAL, 18 May 2022, Women - The first ever International Day for Women in Maritime kicked off its inaugural celebration on Wednesday with a seminar to “take stock and identify areas where improvement is needed”, the top UN official representing seafarers said.

“Women account for just 20 per cent of the workforce in the maritime authorities of Member States and 29 percent…across subsectors in the maritime industry,” International Maritime Organization (IMO) chief Kitack Lim told the virtual Symposium on Training-Visibility-Recognition: Supporting a barrier-free working environment for Women in Maritime.

Noting that these numbers are “significantly higher than those at sea, where women make up as little as two per cent of the workforce,” he added, “we can and must do better”.

Gender inclusivity commitment

The day intends to celebrate and promote the recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector.

By raising the profile of women in maritime, IMO is strengthening its commitment to the fifth Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5) of gender equality while addressing gender imbalances in maritime. 

“IMO is committed to gender inclusivity,” underscored Mr. Lim.

Ample evidence supports that investing in women is the most effective way to lift up communities, companies, and even countries. Countries with more gender equality, enjoy better economic growth.

Progress for all

For over three decades IMO has been working to address the gender imbalance in its maritime programme.

“We have committed to this important cause – and we are seeing these efforts bear fruit,” said Mr. Lim.

As enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, women in the maritime workforce is a benefit for everyone.

The IMO chief outlined the need for “creative thinking to navigate maritime towards a more sustainable, more diverse, and more inclusive green future,” which requires “the brightest minds to address the challenges” thrown up by decarbonization and digitalization.

“People must be empowered to participate in discussions about maritime's future, irrespective of gender,” he said, calling collaboration “the best pathway to find optimal solutions”.

“I am pleased that there are more women in our sector than in the past – as well an increasing number of diversity champions and allies”.

Targeting equality

Across the world, IMO has helped to establish eight thriving Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs): three in Africa and one each representing Arab States, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

There women can gain technical expertise via IMO-funded opportunities at the IMO International Maritime Law Institute, Women in Port Management course and most recently the Maritime SheEO leadership accelerator programme, which was launched in March.

“We must build on this progress,” said Mr. Lim.

Revealing data

Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, IMO was able to conduct a global survey that lays bare the sector’s gender gap.

The 2021 IMO-Women's International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Women in Maritime Survey Report details the proportion and distribution of women working in the maritime sector from IMO Member States and the maritime industry.

Launching the publication, he said gender diversity in maritime was “extremely fragmented by sector”.

“Benchmarking the current state of the sector is vital to measure where we are, and where we need to go,” added the IMO chief.

“By actively empowering women with the requisite skills, maintaining a barrier free working environment, we create truly sustainable systems of gender equality.” 

Respect for migrants at sea

Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Group on Protection of Refugees and Migrants have called upon States to investigate and prosecute abuses committed against migrants who are being smuggled on board vessels at sea, including in transit and destination countries.

In a joint statementUNHCRIOMOHCHRUNODCUNICEF and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, recalled that people take to the seas across the world’s regions in search of dignity, safety and refuge.

The drivers are complex and without safe and legal alternatives, people are increasingly compelled to turn to smugglers and traffickers for irregular migration across the seas, who frequently have little regard for human life.  

Against this backdrop, the group called upon all States to create the conditions that respect the human rights of people rescued at sea on their territories.

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