TODAY is the inaugural International Day for Women in Maritime, a day dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating women across the maritime industry.

The International Maritime Organization formally adopted the International Day for Women in Maritime in December last year. It will be observed on 18 May annually from this year onwards.

This year’s celebrations focus on a theme of “Training-Visibility-Recognition: Supporting a barrier-free working environment”, and the IMO has invited all industry stakeholders to participate.

In a message to the industry, IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim said the observance aims to promote the recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the sector and support work to address the current gender imbalance.

“On this inaugural International Day for Women in Maritime, let’s take this opportunity to celebrate the many women who are contributing to the future of maritime: navigators, engineers, surveyors, CEOs, managers, representatives of government and industry, those chairing IMO organ meetings and women in every other role across the industry,” Mr Lim said.

“Women are working in all facets of the maritime sector across the globe to support the transition to a decarbonised, digitalised and more sustainable future for the industry.”

Mr Lim said maritime is an industry for everyone, and that involvement should not be influenced by gender, but by what each person can do.

“There is still a gender imbalance in maritime, but times are changing as it becomes recognised that diversity in maritime benefits the entire sector,” he said.

“Let’s work to break down barriers and ensure that we create a work environment that is enabling, supportive and inclusive of diverse participation by all, without hindrance in the maritime community.”


Alison Cusack, principal lawyer at Cusack & Co, told DCN the IMO’s launch of a day dedicated to women in maritime re-confirms that the push for gender equality needs to be taken seriously.

“It demonstrates that the conversation hasn’t moved along far enough from the IMO 2019 theme of empowering the maritime community, because we had an entire year of empowering the maritime community and the needle didn’t really move,” she said.

Ms Cusack explained how women and men in the industry can support the transition from discussions to visible change.

“For women, it is accepting help, accepting compliments, accepting good feedback and accepting opportunities,” she said.

“I’ve been asked what the biggest barrier to empowering women is, and it’s women not taking opportunities life presents to them.”

Ms Cusack used the example of women turning down speaking opportunities for fear of not being qualified or subduing their participation and interaction with others in a course or program.

She said men have a part to play in empowering women by refusing to be bystanders and asking women how men can best support them in a given situation.

Ms Cusack also challenged the damaging remarks aimed at those standing up for gender equality in the industry.

“We should be encouraging and supporting our advocates and giving them positive feedback instead of letting them fly the flag by themselves in the hail of criticism,” she said.

According to Ms Cusack, areas demanding attention as the industry moves forward in gender equality include securing paid maternity leave more widely and creating safer working environments for women working ashore and at sea.

“At sea, it’s even worse. Women are being sexually assaulted, sexually harassed and are not being provided support. We’re facing a critical seafarer shortage and we’re locking out 50% of the target recruits,” she said.

Ms Cusack encouraged women across the maritime industry to work confidently and continue to create networks of support.

“The game is rigged. Your existence in this industry is already a win. The aim is not to win, because you’ve already won.”