AS a way of breaking barriers and spreading equal opportunities for young and women seafarers, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) sat down with representatives from more than 40 other countries at the International Labour Organization meeting in Geneva to discuss discrimination and the gap in recruitment and retention of seafarers.

The three-day meeting held from 25 February to 1 March welcomed the first-ever women spokespeople representing ship owners, seafarers and governments. 

ITF Seafarers’ Section Women Transport Workers’ Representative Lena Dyring, Chamber of Shipping of America president and CEO Kathy Metcalf and US Coast Guard Chief of Office of Mariner Credential Mayte Medina led the discussion on issues such as obstacles for women and young people in gaining access to the industry; discrimination; recruitment; and fair treatment of seafarers among other things.

“We came here with an open mind to work seriously with the ILO, social partners and governments to find solutions, and we are pleased that the discussions were mature and specific to provide women and young seafarers with tangible outcomes,” Ms Dyring said.

Discriminatory issues raised in the meeting included mandatory pregnancy tests for women seafarers.

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According to a press release from the ITF, a legal expert from the ILO described the practice as a serious form of discrimination against women.

Ms Dyring said: “Just like women in all other industries, they do not need their employer to make decisions on their behalf about whether or not they should be tested for pregnancy”.

“We were pleased that mandatory pregnancy testing is now considered a discriminatory practice and supported by a large number of governments, a clear message we feel women seafarers deserve to hear loud and clear.”

Ms Dyring has also stated that the ITF is prepared to further support women seafarers’ future family endeavours by working with maritime partners to find solutions and provide assistance to women who pregnancy alters work ability and establish job security during the pregnancy.

The overall goal of the ILO meeting was to make strides towards evening the playing field in the seafaring occupation for women and other minorities, a goal brought to fruition as multiple advances and facilitations were made by the time the meeting was adjourned.

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