Women breaking barriers in maritime & project cargo industry

Published: Monday, March 11, 2019

Women have always contributed to all aspects of our industry,as project logisticians delivering projects in often challenging locations, shipbrokers fixing cargoes, and cargo superintendents and marine warranty surveyors loading cargoes on ever growing scales in ports across the globe Tina Benjamin-Lea, Logistics Manager, SNC-Lavalin

Women makeup only 2 percent of the maritime industry’s entire workforce and an equally small percentage in the logistics and cargo sectors. But the gender equality gap is now slowly changing with more women entering these male-dominated sectors in various capacities.

At the recently held two-day Breakbulk Middle East exhibition and conference in Dubai, the GCC’s
leading breakbulk and project cargo event , women’s increasing involvement in these industries was

Eng. Hessa Al Malek, Executive Director, Maritime Sector, UAE Federal Transport Authority for Land
and Maritime, says incorporating a strong presence of maritime women with leadership roles at the event, the industry empowers the current generation to strive for greatness and inspire future leaders.

“ The readiness of BBME ( Breakbulk Middle East ) to contribute to enhancing the status of women in the maritime sector is a commendable imitative that should be applauded because through empowering women, thriving economies will be fueled around the world, growth and development will persevere, and we will all benefit as we strive towards safe, secure, clean and sustainable shipping.”

Leslie Meredith, Marketing Director Breakbulk Events & Media, emphasized that women can provide legal, technical, operational, among other key roles, necessary to develop the maritime sector.

“Due to the complexities of shipping, many issues are topical and gender equality is one of them. Reducing the discrepancy between male and female employees, as it pertains to international maritime, is essential for the development of the sector as the experience and expertise that women can provide,whether it be legal, technical, operational or otherwise, will only help in enhancing the industry as a whole,” she said

Unlocking women potentials

Jasamin Fichte, a maritime law specialist from Germany who founded the law firm Fichte & Co. in 2005 in Dubai, is all too familiar with the challenges of navigating in a male-dominated industry to earn respect.
“Over the years, there has been a gradual shift and the industry has become more accepting of the fact that women are equally capable of industry successes. As a result,doors that once appeared to be bolted shut have been unlocked allowing
females in maritime to achieve new heights,” said Fichte who also introduced to the UAE Women in Shipping and Trade Association (WISTA) which she currently heads.

Fichte believes only when women join forces can they obtain their rightful place in the maritime sector.

“In doing so, our actions will act as the ultimate portrayal of the benefits we can offer to uplift the industry and the appropriate respect will simultaneously be earned,” she said.

Tina Benjamin-Lea, Logistics Manager at SNC-Lavalin and a member of the Advisory Board at Breakbulk Middle East, believes diversity and inclusion are the key drivers in pushing the industry forward.

“Women have always contributed to all aspects of our industry, as project logisticians delivering
projects in often challenging locations, ship brokers fixing cargoes, and cargo superintendents and
marine warranty surveyors loading cargoes on ever growing scales in ports across the globe,” BenjaminLea noted.

“In today’s world, diversity and inclusion are key drivers and such women in logistics and maritime should play an active role in reshaping industry perceptions. SNC-Lavalin is committed to supporting women across all business sectors and developing local talents in the Middle East that can take the lead in creating a better future for generations to come,” she added.

Technology an enabler
Katherine Yakunchenkova, General Manager, Al Safina Security Group, which specializes in global security solutions, rapid developments in technology is opening up new opportunities  for women traditionally relegated for men like the maritime industry.

“Rapid growth of innovations and new technologies that shape the shipping world, such as usage of
blockchain, robotic processing systems, drone deliveries, ecofriendly ships provide the industry
possibility for big leap in operation
  efficiency. Technological changes are accelerating and tech trends will contribute stupendously into economic growth that I find remarkable,” Yakunchenkova said.

Throughout her career ,Yakunchenkova said she has witnessed how technology has transformed gender equality in many fields

“Based on the World Economic Forum report, finally we will achieve economic gender parity if progress
continues at the current rate. Overcoming the digital gender divide is imperative for our common future
to be safer, brighter and fairer,” she said.

Suha Abdulla Obaid, Deputy CEO, Folk Group, said although women account for 40% of the global
workforce, their number is really small in the maritime industry.

“Despite women forming nearly 40% of the global workforce, the amount of women involved in
international maritime is only a mere
  two percent . This number encompasses all aspects of shipping,
ranging from primarily seafarers to only a few top-level executives. For that reason, bridging the Maritime’s gender gap is an issue that must be addressed and an initiative that Breakbulk Middle East appears to be taking seriously,” she said.

“Although the industry has become more aware of the benefits that come with reducing the gender
imbalance, continuing to promote this concept on the significant channels of exposure is a crucial
element to combatting the disparity,” she added.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia, which represent the two largest GCC economies in the region with a
combined GDP of about US$1.1 trillion, led delegates from more than 52 countries from all sectors of the
project cargo and break-bulk industry that participated in the two day BBME expo and conference held
February 11-12 at the Dubai World Trade Center