Malaysian female seafarer sailing the high seas

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 28: When she completed her secondary education in 2007, Hakimah Saiful Bahri made up her mind to join the maritime industry after coming across a print advertisement by the Malaysian Maritime Academy (ALAM) seeking to recruit female cadets.

The same year, that is, a year after ALAM opened its doors to female students in 2006, she joined the academy to pursue a diploma-level course in nautical studies.

Now aged 33, Hakimah has worked her way up to be the first female senior dynamic positioning officer on board the ship where she works, proving that women too have their fair share of career-advancement opportunities in the mostly male-dominated maritime industry.

“Actually, after finishing high school I had no intention of becoming a seafarer. I wanted to be a lawyer. No one in my family works in the maritime industry.

But my life changed the minute I saw the advertisement by ALAM. “I put in my application (to enroll in ALAM) and was accepted and I graduated as a deck officer in 2010,” she said.

Hakimah shared her maritime working experience during a national seminar on Strengthening Women’s Network in Maritime Community held here, recently.

It was organised by the Women in Maritime Association Malaysia (MyWIMA) in collaboration with the Transport Ministry and Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association.

Hakimah also has other achievements to her credit. Besides being the chief officer or senior dynamic positioning officer (PO) of a diving support ship, she was also the first female pioneer on board an offshore support vessel to obtain the Malaysian Certificate of Competency (COC) Class One Master of 3,000GT (gross tonnage) in 2020, which allows her to steer any kind of ship both in local and international waters.

Hakimah said women’s participation in the maritime industry is still low and that in 2020, only 1.2 percent of seafarers globally comprised women, according to a report issued last year by the Baltic and International Maritime Council and the International Chamber of Shipping.

“In fact, according to the Marine Department Malaysia, only 1,925 out of 72,426 seafarers in Malaysia between 2010 to 2017 comprised women,” she said.

She said there still existed the perception that maritime careers are not suited to women as such jobs require physical strength and entail a dangerous working environment.

“The fact that the industry is male-dominated also makes most women feel that they may face discrimination and may not get equal opportunities for career advancement.- TVS

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