ON SATURDAY 18 May industry celebrated International Day for Women in Maritime 2024. This year’s theme is “Safe Horizons: Women Shaping the Future of Maritime Safety”. There couldn’t be a greater time to highlight the tremendous strain and pressure that one huge portion of our maritime industry is under. That group is our seafarers.

As most would know, more than 80% of the world’s cargo is transported by sea. There are around 1.89 million seafarers globally, with the number on the actual water fluctuating daily.

I would like to share the story of an amazing young woman named Ann Tessa Joseph. She is a 21-year-old cadet and she deserves praise and support from both men and women on International Day for Women in Maritime day.

It was just over a month ago, on 13 April, that the containership MSC Aries was seized by Iran near the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel was sailing from Khalifa Port in the UAE to Jawaharlal Nehru in India. Ann was part of a crew of 25 on board the vessel at the time.

Ann recalled the day the vessel was seized by the Iran military, saying that herself and the crew were caught off guard. They were unaware of the tensions that had been building up between Iran and Israel. Ann was in her cabin getting ready to report for duties when there was an alert to say that the ship had been captured. All crew were taken to the deck and their phones were seized; they were then allowed to return to their cabins.

After being held for fewer than five days, Ann was the first crew member to be released. She returned to her home in Kerala, India on 18 April. Ann continued to worry for her crew mates during her release. Their freedom came on 9 May, twenty-six days after the vessel was captured.

I would love to sit down with Ann and say this to her:

“Ann, you are an amazing young woman. You’ve endured an experience that nobody should ever have to face, and you’ve handled it with dignity and grace. To know that you are planning to return to your duties fills me with such pride. You are not going to let this experience stop you from your continuing with dream occupation. You have told the world that you were treated well by the Iranian commandos that held you and your crewmates, this shows me that you only have kindness in your heart. I so admire your strength and courage and passion for being a seafarer. I thank you.”

On this International Day for Women in Maritime, I hope for greater global awareness and empathy towards the plight of seafarers.

I also hope that Ann has the safe and happy life that she deserves.