Women Captains Forging Careers in Male-Dominated Shipping Field

Japan’s shipping major Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) first female captain takes command of a car carrier.

Naomi Matsushita has been appointed captain of the car carrier Beluga Ace. This is the first time for a Japanese oceangoing shipping company that a female seafarer actually serves as a captain, claims the company.

Since joining MOL, Matsushita has gained onboard experience mainly on car carriers and containerships.

Onshore, she has been active in a wide range of fields such as support for the business divisions and ship management, by drawing on the experience and skills she has gained through working onboard.

“Being surrounded by the sea and the sky you can experience the beauty but also the harshness of nature. I am very aware of my huge responsibilities, so I will never forget my initial enthusiasm and enjoy the wave of change,” Matsushita said in a video released by MOL.

Japan´s MOL has been named to the list of “Nadeshiko Brands” encouraging women’s success in workplace for three consecutive years.

Even though the lens of stereotypes may obscure the evidence of women having always been present in professions historically perceived as male dominated, numerous archives demonstrate that throughout history, women were not only present, but were pioneers in physically demanding professions, making their way despite the abundance of patriarchal limits set by society.

Shipping Telegraph reported lately that Therese Boman has become the first female captain at the Fure Vinga ship for the Swedish shipowner Furetank, which is active in tanker shipping since the early 1950´s.

Furetank got its first female captain and became an example for other women to follow a career at sea.

Norway´s chemical tanker company Odfjell has also promoted its first female captain, another record-breaking year for the company in terms of gender diversity promotion, as Odfjell has 27 female seafarers working at various levels and positions, including two chief officers, two third engineers, and an electrical trainee.

Lise Henriksen embarks on the next leg of her extraordinary seafaring journey as she boards Bow Sky as captain.

In a male-dominated industry, Lise Henriksen stands out as a trailblazer, as Odfjell notes.

There is still considerable work to be done to achieve true gender equality in the shipping industry.

A member survey from the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association from 2020 revealed that only 15% of leaders in the maritime industry are women. Among seafarers the number is 7%, which is less than one in ten.

In the international shipping segment, women account for only 3% of the whole workforce at sea. Fortunately, being a woman in the minority has never stopped Lise.

Video credit: MOL / Naomi Matsushita, Captain of MOL