Against The Tide

Juliana Costabile, Brazil

March 2, 2022

The engineer officer is the technical person on board a ship. We are responsible for operating and maintaining the propulsion plant, main engines, HVAC system, power plant and all other systems and equipment necessary to keep the ship sailing, make it habitable and to protect the cargo, guest and crew on board. 

In this profession I have the opportunity to overcome myself every single day, facing daily challenges and always going beyond. That’s my favorite part of being a marine engineer. Traveling around the globe is just a bonus.

Being a seafarer and an engineer brought me thousands of good things, but also a lot discrimination on the way. Everyday life in the engine room is tough and every time I join a different ship for the first time, there is always that first impression coming from everyone I don’t belong in that place. All those questions like “Why did you choose to be an engineer over a deck officer” or “How does your husband allow you to work onboard?” are the most common questions, and I often find myself working harder than my co-workers because I know that my abilities and skills are judged all the time. 

During all these years at sea I learned how to deal with all these situations. I learned that it’s up to me to show that I do belong to the engine room as much as they do! Instead of answering why my husband lets me work on board, I always ask How their wives allow them to work on a ship and what passion made them want to become an engineer officer. Instead of waiting for the senior officers to decide what job needs to be done , I give my opinion on priorities due to ship operations and the solutions for each problem I find. Speak up, show your worth and never give up! With knowledge, hard work and the right approach, people begin to understand that your place is right where you are or even above.

One thing I would advocate for is that I would like to be called or treated always as just an engineer and not as a woman engineer. Being treated professionally and having your opinion, experience and knowledge taken into account changes everything and this is what I stand for! I am also completely against companies that do not hire certain types of professionals based on stereotypes. 

My advice to other women is to aspire for a career at sea, It’s not easy and it never will be! It takes a lot of persistence and courage to change people’s mentality.. but never lose hope! Do not let yourself be intimidated and show what you are capable of! 

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