Women in shipping

Transport is in general a male-dominated sector, but maritime transport is particularly lacking women workers. Only around 2% of officers and 3.5% of ratings available for the EU fleet are female, compared to 22% in transport overall! The ETF’s Maritime Transport Section is committed to work on improving the attractiveness of shipping for female seafarers, and to tackle bullying and harassment at the workplace. 

The ETF is a signatory to the European Platform for Change. This EU initiative aims to build a gender balanced transport sector, by strengthening women’s employment and creating equal opportunities for women and men. Our social partner for shipping, the European Shipowners Association (ECSA), has also signed up and we have already started working together on gender issues in shipping. We are beginning with an overview of the practical problems that women in shipping face, and an investigation of the barriers that stop women taking up training and employment or remaining in employment. Following a successful and well-attended workshop in June 2018, ETF and ECSA have agreed on an ambitious plan of action. 

The players in the sector have many options for long- and short-term actions to improve the gender balance in shipping. Employers should advertise jobs at sea towards a female audience whilst focusing on image building and making career paths clearer. Training policies should also be adapted. Gender inclusive recruitment (including recruitment of women in manager positions) will make it easier to develop further policies that support women to enter and stay in the shipping industry. Such policies could include: increased flexibility in working arrangements so that employees can find better a balance between work life and personal life; improved maternity/paternity leave policies; adaptations to the physical and cultural aspects of the workplace to make it more gender neutral. 

To facilitate the development of such policies, it will be important to offer shipping companies toolkits of ideas and best practices. Changes to working conditions and contracts are an equally important measure, and the European social partners will explore the possibility to achieve a more gender balanced sector by promoting the use of collective bargaining agreements at both company and sectoral levels. 

Last but not least, it is expected that automation will have a big impact on the seafaring workforce and might make the profession more attractive to women. Unions stand ready to explore in what way automation and digitalisation will be an opportunity to boost female employment in shipping. 

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International Day for Women in Maritime 2023

The ETF is working to address the current gender imbalance in the maritime, is promoting the role of women in the maritime industry as well as gender diversity and equality and is fighting gender stereotypes and gender discrimination.

18 May 2023

ETF-ECSA: EU shipping needs to attract and retain more women

On International Women’s Day, ECSA and ETF continue to advocate the enhanced participation of women in European shipping. As part of the WESS project, they are launching a survey that will help them determine the current state of women’s employment in the sector and assess women seafarers’ needs, a first step of an EU-funded project to increase women’s participation in the shipping industry.

Press Release
8 Mar 2021

“People must be put first!” – ETF reaction to the Opatija Declaration

On Wednesday, EU Transport Ministers adopted the Opatija Declaration on the future outlook of EU Waterborne Transport.
ETF welcomes the attention given to some of the ongoing industry challenges, and at the same time highlights several points that we believe merit further consideration and follow-up both of the EU Member States and the European Commission.

13 Mar 2020

The future of European Shipping needs to be social!

Last week, European Shipping Week 2020 was held in Brussels, organised by the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA). This year, the ETF Maritime Transport section took part in a variety of ways, with trade union representatives from nine different countries attending and contributing to the programme.

25 Feb 2020

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