By Emmie V. Abadilla
Global demand for seafarers continue to surge till 2025, with more women – more Filipinas, specifically, expected to join this male-dominated industry.
So far, of 1.65 million seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships, only two percent are women. Of the one million Filipino seafarers issued with Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book in 2018, ten per cent, or 73,027, are women, mostly working in cruise liners.
It’s even more challenging for Filipino women who want to be part of a ship’s crew, although they are “bolder and highly driven”, says Marissa Oca, Founder and President of Gig and the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation, Inc. (GASFI), a non-profit group forging relationships among seafaring and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) families.
“Seafaring women have a propensity for not backing down from offers for higher positions, unlike men, who may be large in number but do not want to be promoted anymore because they are already satisfied with their salaries,” explained the daughter of the late Gregorio S. Oca, “Father of Filipino Seafarers”.
However, “Many Filipino women seafarers bear the social cost of their profession. After spending so much time at sea, they feel isolated when they come home. They feel that their families do not know them or they have no friends at all. Some of them find it difficult to keep long-distance relationships.”
Next year, the global seafaring industry will need more manpower, close to 100,000 and more by 2025, about 150,000. China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are the five largest supply countries for all seafarers.
While in the past, women on board cruise ships were confined to the housekeeping and food and beverage departments, more women have reached the ranks of chief engineers or master maribers in the last decade. Women can now fill officer positions.
The country’s Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) continues to campaign for women to develop careers at sea and actively promotes equal rights for women in the sector.
Earlier this year, the MARINA conducted a seminar-workshop on gender and development (GAD) seeking to improve its GAD-related initiatives and policies to make them more gender responsive.
MARINA supports the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 which aims to achieve gender equality in the seafaring industry.
IMO is the United Nations specialized agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the preventions of maritime and atmospheric pollution by ships. For the 2019 World Maritime on September 26, IMO banners the theme “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.
This August 14 and 15, GASFI is conducting a Seafarer Family International Congress at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Pasay City to discuss the “Role of Women in Seafarer Families and Maritime Careers” to address how female seafarers can face the challenge of navigating social expectations, leading their vessels, organizations and families.