Why now is the right time for women in maritime and the Merchant Navy

Kathryn Neilson, director of the Merchant Navy Training Board, says it is time for women to step forward in shipping

female seafarers

I began my career as a teacher and spent much of the early part of my career working within the training and development sector. When the opportunity arose in 2011 to branch off into maritime training, I jumped at the chance.

As the director of the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB), I am responsible for the overall operation of the organisation, overseeing and facilitating its technical work, new entrant training programmes, careers promotion strategy and managing the charitable work of the Maritime Educational Foundation.

Changing the way we think about women in the Merchant Navy
One of the MNTB’s focus areas is attracting more women into the industry. It’s a challenge and changing the way we think about women in the Merchant Navy is key. More and more companies in the industry are recruiting women at all levels and with a greater support network on board as well as more clearly defined training and development options available, there are many opportunities for women out there.

The gender balance challenges for the shipping industry in general are no more or less than those faced by the Merchant Navy and it’s not just industry specific. It’s all about knowledge, awareness and changing culture.

Promoting careers at sea
We have a number of initiatives built into the MNTB strategy to attract women into the industry and as part of that strategy we recently commissioned ITN Productions to produce a video specifically to promote careers at sea (which you can watch below). Whilst the focus of the video was predominantly to attract young people into the Merchant Navy, we hope that the young woman featured in the video will inspire other young women to follow this career path.

The viewing figures from the launch of the video were exactly what we had hoped for. 56% of the people who viewed the video in the first week were women and of those women 41% were between the ages of 13-17. This was precisely the target audience we were seeking to attract. There is the interest out there, it’s just a case of channelling it in the right direction.

Key to the recruitment of women into the industry is ensuring that the information they need to start their journey is out there and is easily accessible. We have a great #careersatsea website that contains information on where you can train, the types of training courses available and how to apply. Maritime colleges in the UK have open days annually where everyone has the opportunity to speak to cadets, training providers and colleges face to face.

On the horizon
The MNTB will continue to motivate and encourage young women to join the Merchant Navy and to ensure that the standard of training and support they receive is the best. We continue to work with the industry to promote careers at sea for women to ensure the Merchant Navy have a diverse, multi-skilled workforce ready to face the challenges of an ever-changing industry.

  •  Visit the MNTB's website here or follow the organisation on Twitter.

For more information contact:

Kathryn Neilson

Director, MNTB

020 7417 2824 / 07425 863810