“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.”
One day, a woman decided that she belonged to the sea and thus began the tales of the ‘Shefarer’. But it’s good to know that when you are on the vessel, you’re a seafarer and neither the sea nor the vessel is bothered by the gender that sets it to sail.
Here are the excerpts from the experiences of a female sailor…
A certain degree of mental, physical and emotional preparation is needed to choose this as a profession. What are your experiences of being a part of an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry?
An overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, yes it is but so is the rest of the world. The ratios may vary but the proportions are not very far from each other. We – the women at sea need to be as strong-headed as women in any profession as even today at most workplaces, men outnumber women. It is this fact that keeps us going while at sea. Each one on that vessel is a sailor – not man, not woman and that is why the culture of addressing people by their ranks and not be any other definition of their being.
Do your (male) colleagues happily accept you as one of them?
To be honest, the feeling of overwhelming male dominance lasts only for the initial few days till the crew gets used to a woman being around, and luckily, this settlement time is fast reducing as open-mindedness is increasing. It’s headed in the right direction.
Do you have to deal with prejudice and stereotyping/narrow-mindedness?
Very rarely. There are all kinds of humans on this planet and some are incorrigible. Hahhaa, they cannot be taught but I am glad that companies have very stringent policies in place. There is absolutely zero tolerance towards any kind of discrimination and trust me that is really reassuring.
Have you ever felt the need to resort to online therapy or a helpline service to deal with mental or physical stress?
No, never. Although I have heard that women in the initial phases have resorted to therapies for mental stress (after they disembarked the vessel), maybe because back then the laws were not so defined.
About physical stress, I don’t think so. In case of an injury, maybe yes. That’s because we are thoroughly examined medically as well as physically and have to be certified “FIT” before joining a vessel.
Have you ever used an app for this purpose?
No. By God’s grace, I’ve not felt the need for it. Besides, most of the apps don’t even function on the vessel’s internet speed. You cannot open emails, let alone such apps. The internet speed is so slow that you can hardly manage to talk to your loved ones. The video calls are full of pauses, distorted videos, and broken voices.
I’m sorry to learn that you feel the apps you are currently using don’t work well on your vessel’s satellite connectivity. Unlike onship that has been specially built to work over satellite connectivity, the apps you use have been developed to work only over standard work environments. More often than not it’s the type of app rather than the connectivity that can be the issue.
We sailors are waiting for the day when calling from the sea will be as smooth as from land. The company does call upon people and experts in times of need but this challenge has gone unnoticed for ages. Rather we can say that it is something the whole world has accepted and learned to live with.
It’s unimaginable for a land lover like me to not be able to call and chat with friends and family at will. But let me assure you that your wait is finally over. Happier voyages are not far off because the onship app precisely fulfills what you and your crew long for – chatting with and video-calling your loved ones at low costs, sending home postcards, and easy access to healthcare and welfare services – it’s your one-stop-app and a trusty companion.
Has the pandemic changed anything?
Yes, the pandemic has changed everything. The fear of being stuck on a vessel is the scariest experience for any person at sea. As we are well aware of those limited hours of the internet connection we get to enjoy, they are not enough.
We recently witnessed an unfortunate incident where the internet speed was to blame. One of our engineers received the sad news of his father’s demise several hours after the death. With zero access to the internet even while traveling back home, he couldn’t console his mother and upon returning home, saw that she too had passed away.
I am desperate for technology…some powerful innovation…that will solve this problem forever.
Truly heartbreaking. We understand your frustration. We are fully aware that in today’s day and age, access to reliable communication tools and connectivity is no less than a fundamental right.
But I do have good news for you – we, along with our partners like Inmarsat are tirelessly working towards empowering companies and communities in isolated environments with what they need the most: reliable connectivity and apps like onship that just work over satellite networks.
Would you like to share some tips/advice on how to prove your mettle in this industry?
Do your duties with utmost dedication and sincerity. At sea, the crew is the family, friends, colleagues, and everything to depend on. Prove to be a dependable resource and trust me, gender or any other bias will evaporate into thin air.