More women needed at sea, says UN maritime body

The alleged on-going reclamation of Subi Reef by China is seen from Pag-asa Island in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, western Palawan Province, Philippines Monday, May 11, 2015. ,Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, the Philippines' military chief has flown to the Filipino-occupied island of Pag-asa in the South China Sea amid territorial disputes in the area with China, vowing to defend the islet and help the mayor develop tourism and marine resources there. (Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool Photo via AP)

CALLING them an “untapped” source, maritime authorities, including the head of the United Nations International Maritime Office (IMO), on Saturday pushed for the increased involvement of women in the otherwise male-dominated seafaring industry.

“The importance of women as a future source of [seafaring] human resources cannot be overstressed,” IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim told around 5,000 participants of the International Filipino Seafarers Day celebration at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

The event, sponsored by SM Global Pinoy, was held on the actual date set by the IMO to celebrate the 1.5 million seafarers in the world and increase global awareness about their important contributions to society.

June 25 was chosen by the UN specialized agency to “promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation” during a Manila convention held in 2010 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, according to an IMO statement.

According to data provided to reporters, women make up only 2 percent of the world’s maritime workforce.

Lim said the shipping world “cannot afford to ignore such a rich and still largely untapped source of quality recruits.”

“In a world where the population has already risen past seven billion, and is still growing as we speak, global reliance on maritime transport to sustain life on earth has never been more complete…We need to make sure we use the most cost effective, most efficient and most environment-friendly way to get all those things we need. That means ships. Ships need seafarers,” Lim said.

Gloria Bañas, deputy administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), told the Inquirer  the seafaring industry, including the one in the Philippines, has been male-dominated since its beginnings.

“The thrust is really gender equality in all professions and that includes the crewing industry,” she said.

She said that so far, the Filipino women who were employed in ships “have been starting to make their presence felt because of their commitment and dedication to their jobs.”

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