Women may soon be making more of a splash in the male-dominated maritime industry after the success of an international promotional event celebrated in the North East.
Experts at South Shields Marine School (SSMS) believe the tide could be turning after the annual World Maritime Day threw fresh focus on the need for equality on the high seas.
The event’s theme this year, ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’, was marked at SSMS, which threw open its doors to men and women alike.
Bosses say they are thrilled that around 30 per cent of the estimated 700 people who participated in careers advice sessions and maritime-themed fun events were female.
They also revealed a number of visitors of both sexes had signed up on the day to the school’s next one-year Merchant Shipping Pre-Cadet course, which starts in January.
Marie Flatman, SSMS’s Head of School - Engineering Officer Certification, said: “The day was very well attended by school-age girls and by women, with many telling us that they are interested in careers at sea.
“It is a fact that too few females know about the great opportunities open to them in the Merchant Marine sector and the wide-ranging skills they can learn, and many also see it as a male-dominated sector.
“There are very small numbers of women coming into the industry, largely due to a misconception of what the Merchant Navy is and a lack of knowledge about the job roles available.
“There are a huge variety of roles, most of which can be carried into other industries for anyone who goes to sea but later decides they want to return to work on dry land.
“Women are usually more dextrous than men and can excel in hands-on work and in attention to detail, important aspects in many of the skills needed for careers at sea.
“While our event supporting World Maritime Day aimed to encourage women to look more closely at the Merchant Marine sector, it also focussed on equality, and men were welcomed equally.”
SSMS, which is part of Tyne Coast College (TCC), was founded in 1861 and is one of the world’s leading maritime training centres.
Cadets who qualify from its programmes work globally in Merchant Shipping on vessels including container ships, cruise liners, ferries, oil and gas tankers, chemical carriers, bulk carriers, cable layers, car carriers and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.
World Maritime Day, which was on September 26, is an official United Nations day which aims to draw attention to the importance of shipping and other maritime activities.
It is organised by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations’ agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships.
‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’ raised awareness of the importance of gender equality, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.
At SSMS, events were organised by its Women in the Merchant Navy Group which comprises of 12 female marine school members of staff.
The group goes into schools and takes part in conferences in the role of maritime ambassadors with the aim of promoting careers in the Merchant Maritime sector to schoolgirls and to women.
Pupils from South Shields School, St Wilfrid’s RC College and Career College North East, all South Tyneside, and members of the public, were among those to participate in World Maritime Day.
An IMO spokesperson said: “Shipping has historically been a male-dominated industry and that tradition runs long and deep.
“However, IMO believes that empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurs productivity and growth, and benefits every stakeholder in the global maritime community.”
More information about South Shields Marine School is available by visiting http://www.stc.ac.uk/marine or calling 0191 427 3500.