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Survey reveals extent of female seafarer discrimination

New in-depth online survey shows how women are treated while working at sea

About 60% of female seafarers report being subjected to overwhelming discrimination on board ships, coupled with harassment and bullying, new survey finds

A NEW survey has revealed “shocking figures” in gender-based discrimination against women, onboard harassment and bullying.

The public online survey — conducted by the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association, known as Wista, shipmanager Anglo Eastern, the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network, known as Iswan, and the International Chamber of Shipping  — involved 1,128 female seafarers from 78 countries.

The findings and recommendations will be published in the Diversity Handbook, which will be launched at a Wista event in Geneva this week. 

About 60% of respondents reported encountering gender-based discrimination on board, while two-thirds concurred that their male colleagues had turned to harassing and intimidating their female co-workers.

A quarter reported that physical and sexual harassment on board was common, with intrusions on their privacy.

The majority of the respondents — about 90% — worked on cruise ships, with the rest employed on cargo ships, gas and oil tankers, container ships, general cargo/geared vessels, chemical tankers, bulk carriers and tugs.

A large proportion of respondents — some 399 — came from the Philippines, followed by the US, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, India, Peru, Columbia and Indonesia.

“There is an urgent need to create a more diverse, inclusive and equitable maritime community, with women seafarers deserving a respectful and safe working environment,” said Sanjam Gupta, head of Wista India and co-chair of the diversity committee, adding that the future of shipping was at risk due to a lack of new talent.

“Over the next decade, there will likely be an even greater need for qualified seafarers. One of the best and most effective strategies to stop the growing disparity is adopting gender-inclusive policies within a safe work culture.” 

Wista International’s president Despina Theodosiou said the results from the survey should be a “wake-up call” for the maritime sector. 

The group is working hard to highlight the need for the maritime sector to move from “equality to equity,” she said, as equity ensures everyone has a fair opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents according to their circumstances. “This should apply the same at sea as on land.”

Wista will continue to highlight the issues to bring about change.

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