A NEW research project focusing on women working on cargo ships intends to explore the welfare needs of women seafarers.

The project will be carried out by the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University in Wales with funding from The Seafarers’ Charity.

Researchers aim to interview 30 women seafarers about their experience and use of port-based welfare facilities.

They will also explore the women’s experiences and views of innovative methods implemented during the pandemic and their preferences for the delivery and scope of welfare services in the future.

The Seafarers’ Charity CEO Catherine Spencer said the difference in needs is often overlooked.

“We recognise that seafaring is a male dominated industry and that creates an assumption that the welfare needs of women seafarers may be similar to those of men,” she said.

“However, with this new research project, we want to explore that assumption.

“If women seafarers have unique or different welfare needs, we want to understand this and if necessary, use our grant funding to ensure that the welfare needs of women seafarers are as well supported as their male colleagues.”

Chaplains and volunteers providing port-based welfare services will also be interviewed to explore their views on how the services provided in ports can be developed to ensure they support women seafarers.

“The maritime sector has ambitions to increase the number of women working at sea,” The Seafarers’ Charity said in a statement.

“Figures show that currently only 1% of crew on cargo ships are women. Thus, finding participants will be a challenge, but this work is vital to ensure retention and recruitment of women in the maritime industry.”

The research team will contact a wide range of organisations including ship operators and crewing agencies to request assistance in contacting women seafarers on their lists.

They will also reach out to other groups promoting diversity and inclusivity in the maritime sector and seek support from maritime training centres and colleges.

The research report is planned to be published online by the end of the year and will provide an evidence base for The Seafarers’ Charity to determine how it can best improve the experience of women working at sea.