Happy International Women’s Day to all seafarers, clients and colleagues worldwide. At Marlins we believe this day is not about women only, it’s about diversity and how we work together effectively as a team.

With only 2% of seafarers being women, we interviewed two inspirational female seafarers currently working on board a V.Ships vessel to hear whether life at sea is changing for women and asked for their insights into seafaring as a career path for more women.

In requesting this interview, the response from both the Captain Javellana and her Fleet Manager was “it would be more interesting to ask our male counterparts about their experience of having women on board, both from men at sea and ashore”. We would love to hear your views on working with female crew members on board.

Our thanks go to Captain Maria Jovellana and 4 Engineer Julebie Ornopia Morales, the two seafarers who sent us their insights:

Tell us who and what inspired you both to pursue a career as a Captain and as a 4th Engineer?

Maria: When I was a child, I always dreamed of becoming an astronaut but realised that my family wouldn’t be able to afford the education. Then one day, a group of smart young cadets visited our school and introduced us to the Maritime Academy of Asia Pacific (MAAP) and told us about their experience of becoming seafarers: that’s what inspired me at first. The education was free but aside from this, I knew in my heart that this kind of job would suit my personality well.

What continuously inspires and motivates me to pursue my career as a Captain are my family and simply that I love what I do. Inspiring and leading people, managing, overcoming challenging responsibilities and mostly the experience, not just learning from it but growing myself in so many aspects. A seafaring career doesn’t stop at you being a Captain, you continue to grow outside this role. The road to becoming a Captain is not easy but I would say I was lucky enough to have a strong moral support from my family and best friends.

Julebie: It was my sister (currently a 2 Engineer on board one of the Maersk Line vessels) who inspired me to pursue this career. Although, I am married now and have two kids, that doesn’t stop me from pursuing my goal to become a Chief Engineer. I am just lucky to have a very supportive family who embraces our life at sea as well.

Maria, you are the first female Captain from the Philippines, an amazing achievement. Have you managed to inspire other women to embark on careers at sea and how?

Maria: Thanks, but I never think of that: being the first is always an amazing achievement but more than that, I want to be recognised as a Master.

Yes, I continuously aim to inspire not just other women but also young men and women from around the world to embark on careers at sea. I love to teach, although it requires long patience but when I see that my students or colleagues are progressing well or even better than me, it’s a very satisfying feeling. I believe in the power of coaching and mentoring because I, myself was a product of it. It does not matter which nationality or where the mentor comes from, just having that opportunity is a lifetime gift.

There are a lot of women seafarer organisations around the world like our Women Seafarers Group where most activities and training include only women, led by our successful mentors or seniors who have made it to the top. Although this creates a strong cohesion for all women in maritime at the same it limits our interaction and acceptance of the full responsibility and reality of the shipping Industry – men also need to be part of the conversation around diversity. We are all called Seafarers with no gender preference regarding competence and proficiency.

Julebie, how about you? Have you managed to inspire other women to embark on careers at sea and how?

Julebie: Yes, I am a part of an organisation where we share our experiences on board with our fellow women seafarers that are about to start or just starting their careers at sea. From this, we learn from and motivate each other.

Maria, your current crew includes Julebie Morales, a female 4th engineer officer: what advice do you have for her and to young women considering a career in the shipping industry?

Maria: Firstly, they have to be true to themselves. They have to be sure that they would love this career, not just as an ordinary career path but rather as a choice that comes from the heart. They have to be ready at all times, not just theoretically but mentally and emotionally otherwise, a simple hardship/challenge can lure you away from this path.

We used to think about setting our goals in a SMART way but I have learned and wanted to share that the way to achieve our goals without exhausting ourselves is to do it with HEART:

H – Honest – make sure the goal is right for you and that you choose it yourself, that it is not imposed by someone else. It should be consistent with your other ambitions in life.

E – Exact – this means what exactly do we need in order to achieve our goals and work our way there?

A – Authentic – it should be consistent with your values and beliefs or aligned with your strengths and unique gifts

R – Realistic – it should be in line with your other obligations: do you have time, energy and motivation to complete this goal?

T – Timely- make a deadline for your goal – how long will each step take?

Julebie, what advice do you have for young women considering a career in the shipping industry

Julebie: I was one of the scholars of Marin Shipping (Dutch Company) with mainly tanker ships. The challenges of being an engineer onboard is that you have to be strong not just physically but emotionally and mentally considering that technical jobs require hard work and you have be a constant solution-seeker.

You just have to LOVE your work, so at the end of the day, no matter how hard life on board is, it will not matter at all. And for those women who are married or have kids, don’t stop pursuing your dreams, provided that you have a supportive family who will back you up.

Maria, you are not only a Master, you are also passionate about delivering chemical tanker training: what makes for a great trainer of seafarers?

Maria: Yes, I am so passionate about training because I wanted to impart not just my knowledge and skills but also the quality of experience which I had both on board and ashore. Learning in four corners of the room is good, learning from others’ experience is better, but learning from doing it yourself is the best. As trainers and mentors, we have to walk the talk. Students will learn best from their instructor if the instructor is still active in sailing – the learning is both ways….

What is missing from seafarer training today?

Maria: HEART. I guess, most seafarers just do the training because it is mandatory but a small percentage volunteer themselves to be trained. Most training is shore-based which takes away a lot of seafarers’ time when they should be with their families or loved ones. I don’t see too many companies like SeaTec Safety Services and Marlins nor too many owners that support the training-onboard program these days.

Julebie: APPLICATION. Most of the seafarers who take their training ashore do not apply it effectively when they are on board. Either the training is not effective or the seafarer is not paying attention when doing the training courses.

It is International Women’s Day. This year they have used the slogan #EachforEqual. Is equality still an issue in your day-to-day working lives at sea?

Maria: Currently on board, equality is not an issue – we are just lucky to work for both a ship owner and for V.Ships as a ship manager who support a complement of men and women on board their vessels. This requires a continuous focus on maintaining good morale and responsibility onboard and ashore.

Life in general, at times is not fair and equal but at least we are doing something to change it.

Julebie: It is my first time on board this vessel which is managed by V.Ships but I would say, I am lucky to be board on this vessel which promotes gender equality and diversity.

Are you a male seafarer with experience of working with female crew members on board? We would love to hear your views too.