UK shipowner North Star is marking International Women in Engineering Day by explaining how it aims to change ideas of what a career in shipping involves.

According to the International Maritime Organization, only 2% of seafarers are female.

This equates to 24,000 women out of a global workforce of 1.5m.

Offshore vessel operator North Star believes statistics like this underline that diversity, particularly female representation, remains a major problem in the maritime industry.

The company’s crewing coordinator, Anne Mearns, is passionate about addressing this.

As a senior member of a predominantly male team, Mearns is committed to ensuring more women are encouraged to choose a career at sea.

Having worked at North Star for almost 15 years, she has noted that most cultures perceive seafaring as a profession primarily aimed at men.

“This perception is not only deterring many potential women seafarers, but also creating tension for those in the profession who must overcome long-held stereotypes held by friends, family members and society in general,” she said.

“My experience of working with young people coming into seafarer roles, and even those who are reskilling at different points in their life, has revealed a common misperception of seafaring being a lonely and dangerous profession, requiring many hours of hard, physical labour.”

New promotion

She said these common external perceptions must be challenged.

North Star is keen to increase access to maritime training and employment opportunities for women, while promoting the many benefits of a life at sea.

One example is the recent appointment of North Star’s first female assistant superintendent, Victoria Diamond.

Having gained her Certificate of Competency as a third engineer, she was then promoted.

Her responsibilities include assisting other superintendents to ensure all ships are operated and maintained to comply with relevant legislation and class-rule requirements.

Diamond is also tasked with arranging and supervising any repair work and the purchasing of vessel spares and stores.

Mearns said: “Victoria has proved herself amongst her fellow cadets and impressed the team at North Star hugely. Having first come to our attention during her marine engineering cadetship, she has consistently displayed her skills, aptitude and commitment to a seafaring career.”

North Star is the UK’s largest employer of offshore cadets and invests £1m ($1.22m) annually in their development.

Thrilled at role

Diamond said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be taking on this role with such a forward-thinking and supportive company, and the opportunities offered to me by the North Star crew.

“I’m looking forward to applying everything I’ve learnt to date, progressing my career further and supporting other cadets as they come up through the ranks, especially more females.”

Mearns said North Star is constantly looking to identify areas for improvement and growth, including how it can better attract and retain female talent.

“I believe that our new offshore wind fleet, which will begin being delivered from early next year, is helping us to achieve this for all genders,” she added.

“These ships are highly sophisticated floating assets which offer those working on board exceptional comfort as well as the chance to operate some of the most exciting green and futuristic technologies, including AI and digital twinning decision-support software.”

Owned by Swiss investment company Partners Group, the Aberdeen company operates 48 specialised vessels and has won contracts of more than $500m for six new ships ordered for a push into offshore wind farm operations.