Mar 24

Celebrating Women's Leadership in the Maritime Industry (Red Funnel)

Fran Collins is the CEO of Red Funnel a ferry company that carries passengers, vehicles and freight on routes between the English mainland and the Isle of Wight. She tell us about her career backgroud to inspire inclusion and to be an example for other women whising to pursue a leadership role.


My career as a seafarer started with a dual cadetship at South Tyneside college sponsored by Shell Shipping, and I qualified in 1997 with both Deck and Engineer (Steam & Motor) licences. 

I stayed with tankers initially, serving as both Engineer and Deck Officer worldwide on a range of vessels, including LNG, LPG products, and VLCCs, before discovering a different world in the undersea cable industry. As a result, my career took more of a deck-based focus, and in 2002, I joined Condor Ferries as Chief Officer. Upon gaining my Master Mariners unlimited, I subsequently became Condor’s first female Master.


In 2008, I transferred to shore-based management, and since then, I have continued to develop my career through several executive roles, which have included operational management, business leadership, and the delivery of major strategic projects, several of which involved significant and extensive stakeholder management. 

Alongside my role as CEO at Red Funnel, I currently provide support to Saga Cruises as a Non-Executive Director and am an active member of several industry bodies at a strategic level, including the DfT’s Clean Maritime Council and the Isle of Wight’s Chamber of Commerce. I am also a Group B reservist officer in the British Army.

I joined Red Funnel as CEO in June 2018, and in November 2019, I received the Merchant Navy Medal for my contribution to the shipping industry.

Inspiring Women

In talking about my career, I can safely say that going to sea was the best career move I could have made. I’ve been able to learn my trade, and then develop it into other areas and build a career that I never even imagined when I left school. 

Joining the Merchant Navy gave me access to a range of skills that have stood me in great stead in all aspects of my life, both personal and professional, and I got to learn this while travelling the world and working with an incredible range of people, many of whom I’m still in contact with. 

The Merchant Navy offers an incredibly diverse range of opportunities, whether that be directly onboard vessels from tugs to coasters, ferries, bulk carriers, tankers, or cruise ships, but also more widely across the industry. 

Opportunities exist in maritime support and engineering, training, law, employment, and management, to name a few, and starting your career in the Merchant Navy gives you access to all of these. I couldn’t recommend it more!

Learn more about our member, Red Funnel.