The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) is demanding action to promote the employment of more women at sea.

Describing those women currently working at sea as “trailblazers”, the association’s first female president, Gaby Bornheim, said that much more could be done.

“It is very clear to us that there is an urgent need for more female seafarers,” Bornheim said.

That was “in no small part because shipping, like all other sectors, also has a recruitment problem”.

Bornheim made the comments as the maritime industry prepared to celebrate International Day for Women in Maritime on 18 May.

She noted that only 6% of seafarers on board the German merchant fleet are women.

That amounted to 400 female seafarers out of a total of 6,927 employees.

The global picture was even more dire, with women accounting for just 1.2% of the world’s 1.9m seafarers, according to last year’s Bimco/International Chamber of Shipping Seafarer Workforce Report.

However, the trend is positive as it represents a 45% increase compared with 2015.


Bornheim praised women who are already serving on board vessels at sea.

“You are the trailblazers. I have great respect for you,” she said.

“I am absolutely convinced that women can do everything that men can do — and that naturally includes technical professions.”

Bornheim is the first female executive in the role in the VDR’s 114-year history, although men still dominate the association’s board.

Last month, the VDR appointed 47-year-old Martin Kroger as its new chief executive.

He replaces former Senator Ralf Nagel, who is stepping down after 12 years in what Bornheim referred to as a “generational change”.