All sides of the shipping industry came together at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the promotion of seafaring jobs to women and young people. The meeting, at the headquarters of the International Labour Organization (ILO), was attended by representatives from shipowners, maritime trade unions and governments, with all three spokespeople being women – representing the Chamber of Shipping of America, the ITF seafarers’ section and the US Coast Guard.
The meeting discussed the barriers to women and young people entering seafaring as a career, including discriminatory practices, and current issues facing seafarers. One of the barriers for women in seafaring has been the practice of mandatory pregnancy testing, which is now considered discriminatory by many governments. Young recruits can also be deterred because of difficulties in social communication, shore leave, training and sea time.
The meeting concluded that stakeholders should take an active role in facilitating measures to break down the barriers. These included ensuring:
- shore leave and the establishment of seafarers’ welfare committees
- that cadets, trainees, young seafarers and women have the necessary time at sea to be licensed
- the repatriation of abandoned seafarers and prompt assistance to seafarers in cases of criminalisation, piracy and armed robbery
- policies on zero tolerance on bullying and harassment.
It also recommended that the ILO convene a tripartite meeting with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to consider a range of specific issues affecting seafarer employment and conditions of work.