THE MARITIME Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) hosted an event to showcase the contributions of women to the sector on International Day for Women in Maritime on Thursday, May 18.
The event’s keynote speaker, Pat Francis, chair of Jamaica’s Trade Facilitation Task Force, said while statistics show women are under-represented in the maritime industry, particularly in seafaring roles – where they are only 1.2 per cent of global seafaring workforce – there has been a growing push to increase gender diversity and inclusion in recent years, which has resulted in an increase in the number of women in the workforce since 2015.
However, “with the new UN (United Nations) Treaty on the High Seas, there are certainly new opportunities for women in the maritime industry”, Francis said.
“Jamaica, as a small island developing state, should be concerned about how the oceans are governed. Our own exclusive economic zone is bigger than the land mass of Jamaica, but that sits within the wider Caribbean Sea, which has been reported as second only to the Mediterranean with its levels of pollution.”
Francis pointed out that the treaty emphasises the need for sustainable use of ocean resources, protection of marine biodiversity, and the development of new technologies for ocean exploration and research, which presents a wide range of opportunities for women with expertise in marine science, environmental management, and engineering, among other fields.
“Additionally, the treaty recognises the importance of building capacity and improving access to education and training for the sustainable use of marine resources. This could create new opportunities for women to gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the maritime industry.”
Francis called the MAJ to action, noting, “As a regulator, you are well placed to ensure the environmental integrity of our oceans, but you should also open doors to new opportunities, including countless opportunities that unfold from operating a ship registry.”
Nakalia Thompson, fourth engineer officer and graduate of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), also addressed the audience. She encouraged women to enter the maritime industry. However, Thompson shared that “as women, we have to work harder out there, because men see it as a man’s job”, pointing out that if women want to excel in their careers at sea, they must keep studying to remain on top of their game. She currently works on liquid petroleum tankers which carry propane, butane or ammonia.
Third-year engineer cadet at the CMU, Abigail Griffiths, shared that her entry into the field came via an invitation to an event, where she was “surrounded by remarkable men and women, particularly the accomplished women and the positions they held; I was captivated throughout the entire event”.
Choosing to become a female marine engineer was not a decision driven solely by Griffith’s passion for the sea, but also her determination to challenge gender stereotypes in a traditionally male-dominated field.
She said, “On this International Day for Women, my aspiration is to hold leadership roles, contribute to sustainable maritime practices, and inspire other women who aspire to be seafarers. I firmly believe that with the right support, mentorship, and empowerment, young women can thrive in maritime careers. I am committed to offering my support, sharing my experiences, and encouraging future generations of women to fearlessly pursue their dreams, knowing that the sea holds no limits to their success.”