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UN shipping agency urges more women to climb aboard, fuel sustainable growth

The IMO Women in Maritime programme supports the participation of women in both shore-based and sea-going posts.
The IMO Women in Maritime programme supports the participation of women in both shore-based and sea-going posts.

UN shipping agency urges more women to climb aboard, fuel sustainable growth


The historically male-dominated shipping industry should clear the decks for a new generation of women, whose empowerment would help fuel economic growth, and speed up the drive towards “safe, secure, clean and sustainable shipping”.

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That’s according to the International Maritime Organization, IMO, which has made empowering women the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day, celebrated on Thursday.

“This provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to highlight the important - yet under-utilized - contribution of women within the maritime sector”, said IMO.

The agency’s Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, said that “gender equality has been recognized as one of the key platforms on which people can build a sustainable future.”

"Helping our Member States achieve the SDGs and deliver the 2030 Agenda is one of our key strategic directions”, he added. “Gender equality and decent work for all are among those goals - SDGs 5 and 8 - and, although we are highlighting the role of women in the maritime community this year, I want to stress that this is part of a continuing, long-term effort in support of these objectives.”

"Women in the maritime world today are strong, powerful and constantly challenging old-fashioned perceptions”, he added. “The maritime world is changing. And for the better. With help from IMO, and other organizations, exciting and rewarding career opportunities are opening up for women. And a new generation of strong and talented women are responding. They are proving that in today's world the maritime industries are for everyone. It's not about your gender, it's about what you can do," Mr. Lim said.

In its message for the Day, IMO acknowledged that 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.”

Empowering Women in the Maritime Community

The agency has initiated a Women in Maritime gender equality and capacity-building programme, which encourages Member States to enable women to train alongside men in their national maritime institutes, in order to acquire the skills needed to take the helm, and rise to the top of the industry.

A series of activities and events are on-going around the world, related to the theme of Empowering Women in the Maritime Community.

Some of the highlights so far:

  • March - launch of women in maritime profiles to showcase women who have benefited from the Women in Maritime programme.
  • 4-5 April - 3rd International conference on Empowering Women in the Maritime Community at the World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden. Read the outcome here
  • 5 April - Meeting of all seven IMO regional Women in Maritime Associations (WIMAs), on the sidelines of the WMU Conference.
  • 1 May - special event held at IMO Headquarters on International Labour Day, exploring issues around female representation in a traditionally male-dominated industry. 
  • 25 June - On the International Day of the Seafarer, IMO, industry and other stakeholders joined the campaign to get on board with this year's theme of gender equality.
  • 25 June - IMO film, Turning the Tide, showing how IMO's Women in Maritime programme is helping to support gender diversity in the maritime sector.
  • 15-17 September - World Maritime Day Parallel Event 2019 in Cartagena, Colombia.
  • 18-20 September - Regional conference for the Network of Women of the Maritime Authorities of Latin America - Red de Mujeres de Autoridades Maritimas de Latinoamerica (MAMLa).
  • 26 September - Celebration of World Maritime Day at IMO Headquarters.
  • Late 2019 - initiating IMO/WISTA study to collect and analyse data on the number of women employed in the maritime sector.