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International Women Seafarers Foundation set sail for long-haul smooth voyage

 The all sailing women association christened as ‘International Women Seafarers Foundation (IWSF) trust’, was launched on 3rd Nov at Mumbai by the Indian women seafarers in the presence of DG Shipping as Chief Guest and stalwarts of the shipping industry including Dr Mrs SujataTolani (Owner Tolani Shipping Ltd), Capt Ashok Mohapatra (Director of Safety Council, IMO) and Pradeep Rawat (Chairman, National Shipping Board) who graced the occasion as the guest of honour. 

The IWSF visions to promote and support women seafarers in their sailing profession. The foundation aims to assist companies’ in bridging policy gaps for women seafarers on board and help government and institutions in promoting education and policies related to women at sea. It will also work to raise awareness in the society about women in seafaring profession and assist in conducting activities that will encourage women participation in shipping, says a release. 

While sharing her views with press, Ms Suneeti Bala, one of the three founding members said “Sailing women being negligible in number, have been affected by gaps in policies, procedures and general social understanding of co-existence in the confined working environment of ships. These aspects discourage aspiring women and shipping companies equally in improving female seafarer numbers over the years. In order to overcome these barriers, companies and individuals may be imparted guidance on multiple fronts by way of training, policy formulation, awareness camps, assistance and much more. “

Women’s contribution to seafaring is mere 2% worldwide, amongst 1.25 million Seafarers working on 85,000 ships. The founders asserted that the efforts of IWSF would assist in balancing the much needed gender diversity on board ships. “We seek the blessings, guidance and support of shipping industry stalwarts and maritime community to achieve these objectives collectively” were the words of CaptRadhikaMenon, the first Indian lady officer on board merchant ships and one of the other founding members of IWSF.

“We seek a platform of equal opportunities and employment only based on Competency “says the Third founding member Ms Sharvani Mishra. Guest of honor Dr. SujataTolani, Chairperson of Tolani Shipping said, “Congratulations to our empowered women (seafarers) who are launching International Women Seafarer Foundation (IWSF). In a world today where lady seafarers are commanding respect by virtue of their capabilities, I envision IWSF as a stepping stone to a time in which no eyebrows are raised when a daughter expresses her desire to choose seafaring as a career; to a classroom in which the girl cadets do not stand out in a classroom full of boys; to a workplace in which the male seafarer has the ability to work side by side with a female seafarer without gender becoming an issue; and finally to a society which gracefully accepts that a lady seafarer can be as competent if not more than her male counterpart and gives her the space to excel in her profession just like it has done in the medical field, the banking industry and all the other various industries. I wish IWSF all the best." 

 It is very important for women seafarers to get moral counseling to prepare for sailing career and a good training can prepare them well for this profession. Also the policies for women at sea need to be implemented properly and IWSF consider this as their mission to fulfill all these aspects.

Dr. Malini V. Shankar, IAS, Director General of Shipping and special secretory to Government of India graced the event and Ms. SujataNaikTolani, Chairperson, Tolani Shipping was guest of Honour. While appreciating this initiative by IWSF Dr. Malini said, “Women play a very important role in every aspect of life.  God has gifted women with a natural ability of setting things right, wherever they lay their mind and heart.  Shipping is a field where acceptance of women is seeping in rather slowly.  I am glad that women seafarers have come together formally to address issues concerning them.  The vast and unique practical experience and knowledge they bring in through IWSF is certain to help the industry immensely and encourage interested women to participate actively in maritime industry”. 

A sailing career is highly rewarding and satsfying profession and opens a plethora of opportunities for future growth ashore. But, the question is would anyone consider their daughter to choose seafaring as a profession? At IWSF it’s our mission to make all those answers YES.

Founding members

 Capt Radhika Menon is the first lady Master of India having 26 years in shipping and sailing with Shipping Corporation of India LTD. She happens to be first woman to receive gallantry at sea award NMDC 2016. Furthermore, she is billed to be the first woman from the world to be conferred with International Maritime Organization Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea 2016 for conducting rescue operation which saved lives of 7 fishermen in stormy weather in Bay of Bengal, in year 2015. She has been awarded with USCG Medal for Rescue operation, PannaDhai National award 2017 by Maharana of Mewar Foundation, Indian Express DEVI Award 2016 for woman of innovation and dynamism and Maritime Excellence award Indywood. Capt Menon has served as Vice president of Maritime Union of India for two consecutive tenures. Presently she is serving as their executive committee member. She will be conferred with first woman achiever award by Govt. of India in Nov 2017.

 Ms.Suneeti Bala is An Extra First Class, Ex-Marine/Class Surveyor & Auditor, is DMET (MERI Kolkata) alumni. She started her sailing career at Chevron shipping. After going through regular MEO Examination, she finally reached up to Chief engineer and become 1st Indian lady Chief Engineer sailing on board MT Albert Ekka PVC of Shipping corporation of India Ltd. Towards her Challenging shore career, she joined Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass), Mumbai station as 1st lady field surveyor. Progressing her career in IRClass she served in IRClass head office till Senior surveyor.

 Ms.Sharvani Mishra: From joining as one of the only two female cadets from the pioneer batch of Tolani Maritime Institute, to becoming the first lady engineer to sail on an Indian flag ship, Sharvani Mishra has come far with a vast sailing and on-shore experience in various disciplines of maritime industry. Her fortes include both, ship management and chartering. In addition to being conferred with recognitions as a speaker in various conferences and forums, she is an active member of International Association of Maritime Economists and Institute of Marine Engineers.


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