Against The Tide

Angela Bueno, USA .

August 25, 2020

I enjoy the different tasks and challenges that come with this profession. I have a good group of co-workers that I enjoy working alongside. The weather is always different, the equipment malfunctions, the cities we visit are unique, all this keeps life interesting and give us something to talk about. The income allows me to feel free, the schedule allows a somewhat normal life. It is a unique life that I have come to love over time.In the beginning, I faced challenges in finding my place in the industry. Fresh out of school, the people managing my vessel wanted me to break environmental law and it was a hostile work environment, I refused and resigned. My next job was on a passenger vessel, it paid less but I loved it, the company went bankrupt within a year. I eventually found a company that is stable and allowed me to learn and grow. It took six years for movement to happen as I worked and kept upgrading my license. I was patient and was finally promoted from third assistant engineer to first assistant engineer unlimited. A transfer to be closer to home with paid travel led me to where I am now, working as Chief on a smaller vessel.

On my first vessel, the chief engineer created a hostile working environment, he told sex jokes all day, made sexual comments, I felt uncomfortable if I ever had to work with my back turned to him. The captain was selling pornography to the crew, the DVDs lay around our small crew lounge shamelessly. I felt I did not have the experience or knowledge to be taken seriously, that my voice would not be heard if I made the company aware. I overcame that situation by resigning. Being a young female seafarer, sometimes the role to supervise much older and more experienced men can also be challenging or intimidating. Like anything else, stick with it, treat everyone fairly and with time people get to learn your character and work ethic. Over time, which gains you the experience needed, your confidence will grow and this is vital in taking leadership roles.

Maritime schools need to address the challenges female seafarers will be facing when they go to sea. The students at maritime schools should have a series of classes that teach them how to manage the challenges of gender disparities at sea, teach them about gender biases and reporting problems with coworkers or leadership. Teach the men how to stand up for female shipmates if they witness any abuses and teach the women about setting healthy work relationship boundaries. This would promote future generations of shipmates who are in tune with and can help improve conditions for female seafarers.

Angela is Chief Engineer

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