The Seafarers’ Charity funded the Seafarers International Research Centre at Cardiff University to carry out research into the welfare needs of women working on cargo ships.

We supported this research because we know that while all seafarers working at sea face difficult challenges, women seafarers face specific problems because of the male-dominated nature of the industry. Despite this context, it has been noted that women seafarers do not make as much use of welfare facilities in port as their male counterparts. In undertaking this new study, we wanted to gain a better understanding of what challenges women seafarers face as a consequence of their work and how welfare services might be developed to provide better support for their needs.

The research on the Port Based Welfare Needs of Women Seafarers gives rise to many questions for maritime welfare charities, including:

  • Do maritime welfare charities need to recruit more women and staff to deliver frontline welfare services?
  • Do charities need to proactively seek out, identify and coordinate their welfare support for women seafarers?
  • Does the range of products taken on board and stocked in seafarer centres need to be more diverse?
  • Do promotional materials aimed at seafarers need to include increased representation of women seafarers?
  • Is there more that can be done to connect and support women seafarers with each other?
  • And crucially – what is the role for maritime welfare charities in supporting women’s safety onboard?

For the wider maritime industry, there is a need for a significant cultural change in respect of traditional attitudes towards women working at sea if the industry is to retain the few women it already has, let alone achieve its ambition of recruiting more women into the maritime sector.

This research with women seafarers identifies that the majority of women seafarers in the cargo sector are facing difficulties at work on a daily basis. Concerns about their isolation onboard and fears for their personal safety is evidence that women seafarers face different challenges to their male colleagues and this means that their needs for welfare support are different, important and should not be neglected simply because they represent a minority.

Although small in number, The Seafarers’ Charity wants to ensure that women seafarers’ receive the welfare support they need and deserve. The challenges of working at sea can be hard enough - no one should feel unsafe in their place of work.

Photo kindly provided by IMO.

Click here to access the report