IMO first International Day for Women in Maritime focuses on equality

May 19, 2022

On May 18 the first-ever International Day for Women in Maritime started its maiden festivity honoring women seafarers with a seminar covering the areas where improvement is needed.

 “Women account for just 20% of the workforce in the maritime authorities of Member States and 29% …across subsectors in the maritime industry,” International Maritime Organization (IMO) chief Kitack Lim said at the virtual Symposium on Training-Visibility-Recognition: Supporting a barrier-free working environment for Women in Maritime.

Noting that these numbers are “significantly higher than those at sea, where women make up as little as two per cent of the workforce,” he added, “we can and must do better”.

For more than three decades, the International Maritime Organization has been working to address gender imbalances in its maritime agenda. 

“We have committed to this important cause – and we are seeing these efforts bear fruit,” said Mr. Lim.

As contained in the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, women in the maritime workforce benefit everyone.

The IMO chief outlined the need for “creative thinking to navigate maritime towards a more sustainable, more diverse, and more inclusive green future,” which requires “the brightest minds to address the challenges” thrown up by decarbonisation and digitalization.

“People must be empowered to participate in discussions about maritime's future, irrespective of gender,” he said, calling collaboration “the best pathway to find optimal solutions."

“I am pleased that there are more women in our sector than in the past – as well an increasing number of diversity champions and allies."

Worldwide, the IMO has helped establish eight successful Maritime Women's Associations (VIMA): three in Africa and one each representing the Arab states, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific.

Their women can gain technical expertise through IMO-funded opportunities at the IMO International Institute of Maritime Law, the Women in Port Management course, and the recent Maritime SheEO accelerator program, launched in March. 

“We must build on this progress,” said Mr. Lim.

Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, the IMO has been able to conduct a global survey that reveals gender disparities in the sector.

The IMO Report 2021 of the International Maritime and Trade Organization (VISTA) provides details on the proportion and distribution of women working in the maritime sector from IMO member states and in the maritime industry.

Launching the publication, he said gender diversity in maritime was “extremely fragmented by sector”.

“Benchmarking the current state of the sector is vital to measure where we are, and where we need to go,” added the IMO chief.

“By actively empowering women with the requisite skills, maintaining a barrier free working environment, we create truly sustainable systems of gender equality.”