Women In The Shipping Industry: Merchant Navy As A Career For Women

Challenges, hard-work, and bravery are the important elements that a seafarer must have pointed on his chart. And if you are a female seafarer then add a bunch of questions in these elements.

Credits: Varren Maritime Academy

The Merchant Navy is often considered as a male-centric industry with a tremendous male power dominance. But in the last few decades, the scenario has changed. Women are exploring this unraveled standpoint of the sea. Shipping companies with every succeeding year are recruiting more and more female seafarers. The challenges that female seafarers work with can be slightly more as compared to male ones but they are all paid off with courage and bravery. There is not a sector that women have left without leaving a patch of inspiration, and the marine industry has also recorded such names who can be seen as a role model for the young female seafarers. The universe favors the brave one, the one who has enough willpower to overcome any challenge and each challenge has a different definition in the sea which does not look for gender disparity. 

Can women join Merchant Navy?

Of course, they can. Anyone with a strong physique, proper mental health, and high self-esteem can join the merchant navy. It’s just that the job on the ship calls for 24hrs attentiveness and the work is very tedious, the women on the other hand were considered as “fragile” beings who were much more comfortable at working in offices or doing house chores. But things have changed now, with more exposure to the marine industry, female cadets are recruiting in gradually. 

Credits: mtelegraph.com

There are certain criterias that you need to fill up before thinking of joining the Merchant Navy. The candidate should have passed 12th class with science stream with 60% of marks from a recognized board. And then you have to qualify the Indian Maritime University Common Entrance Test (IMU CET). After that, you will be brushed up theoretically and practically to work on a ship and finally, you’ll be sent for an onboard training where you will be trained with all gears and equipment.  All these training and teachings are similar for everyone so any kind of discrimination based on gender disparity does not stand in here. Each day comes with new ambition, new inception, a new lesson, and a new bunch of challenges so it is important to muster up all your courage before boarding on the ship. 

What are the challenges faced by women in Merchant Navy?

Now being a severely male-dominated industry it is given that female cadets can face certain problems or may take some extra time to adjust to the surroundings. Here is a list of things that you can find challenging on your journey:

•Acceptance of fellow colleagues

At first, you may find yourself left out or ignored because of the industry’s male dominance. There can be very few or sometimes a single female cadet on the boarding ship. Building your own impression between a group of men can be a massive difference to make but it can happen with the passage of time. You just need to take initiatives, show active participation, and do everything with utmost confidence. Working on a ship creates its own environment and once you get submerged in it then it becomes easy for you to perform your job. 

•Combat with loneliness

If you are an only woman on the ship then it becomes a little hard for you to get over your feelings of loneliness because you don’t have someone to share your thoughts or feelings. And if you overthink these situations then, they can take a certain toll on your mental health. So the only way to keep yourself away from gloomy thoughts is to engage yourself in work. It is advised to imprint your thoughts in a diary, watch movies, listen to the songs which make you happy if you have the proper means to do so, read books, or prepare for your exams, but just don’t sit ideal. 

Fencing with stereotypes and narrow mindedness

From the moment you jump into this industry you encounter a whole bunch of questions like, Why did you choose it as your profession? What will you do in the future? because the merchant navy is considered as men’s arena, which is solely and exclusively owned and controlled by them. And also if you mix well with a certain group of people or an individual then it can arise certain questions against you. So it is positive that you strengthen your mind and mix well with everyone. Give space and respect and work meticulously to prove yourself, making your existence worth it. 

Physical and mental challenges

Again, working on a ship is a very tiresome job. Performing those heavy tasks can squeeze your body completely. And female seafarers tend to work more sometimes because they have to prove their competency and compatibility with all their performances.  It can be both mentally and physically exhausting. 

•Family life

Female seafarers who have kids in their homes tend to suffer a little more than any other. Because it is a stage set by the society that women are supposed to take care of the kids and children and should be brought up by her only. This is one of the major challenges that the female seafarers face.

Merchant Navy as a career for women

Credits: itfseafarers.org

Today there are many areas in defense where women are acing as or more like men. There is not a field left by them that could deny their presence. Merchant Navy can prove itself to be an outstanding and remarkable career option for women who tend to enjoy a thrilling and adventurous life. Apart from the hardships and challenges that a female seafarer face, it is all worth once she makes her existence a subject of respect between a bunch of men. And after all its passion which calls for responsibility and a sense of duty and if anyone carries a certain obsession for the sea then he/she can definitely board on the ship. Navy women portray an impression of the vigor lady in the sea. Being in the merchant navy is a 24/7 job, which needs devotion and dedication. The key attraction points for women in this industry can be a good-paying job and also you get a respectable designation between a male-dominated environment if you are good at your job. So in a nutshell, there are equal and even more opportunities for women in the merchant navy. The merchant navy is a tough career to choose, but it pays you off in return.


So initially the parameters of the marine industry were unrevealed to Indian women maybe because of societal barriers like marriage, kids, family, living away from family for so many days and so on. But as our society widened the horizon of their thinking the girls also started to take a stand for themselves and made their dreams explore this industry. You can’t be oblivious of the fact that in spite of facing problems and hurdles in the way of their success, female seafarers have left a certain impression on this industry. Pursuing Merchant Navy as a profession demands immense bravery and zeal of doing something unique so its you who chisel your path up towards success. The rewarding part of this job can be the trust and satisfaction of crew members and senior officers which is gained by you while performing your duties. But above all, trusting yourself and having the courage to do the work is the biggest step towards this direction. So just create a life which you want to live in because after all, it will be your creation, you will know about the pros and cons of it and you will know how to deal with it. Remember, reflection on the positive sides of a job will always tell you how to win over it.

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