There are several challenges when one wants to pursue a career at sea. One must be able to cope with being away from family and friends for a long period, and deal with the mental and physical stress of demanding tasks.
Also being an overwhelmingly male dominated industry over the years, women today represent only two per cent of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers.
For 23-year-old Nurul Siti Shahrinah binti Shahrolwardi, also known as Rina, the first female Marine Officer for Brunei Gas Carriers Sdn Bhd (BGC), the work as a seafarer has its challenges and perks.
“In my line of work, it is important to be positive and do what makes you happy. Take the time to have a discussion with others about your thoughts, manage and organise your work,” she said in an interview with the Bulletin.
“If you can take these things on with the right passion and motivation, then the positives of the job far outweigh the negatives.” She found out about the job during a career roadshow at Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College at the BGC booth. The BGC officer gave her brief details about the job and encouraged her to apply.
After discussing with her parents, who supported her decision, she applied for the BGC Cadetship Programme and was accepted. She went to South Tyneside Marine College in the United Kingdom to study Nautical Science and graduated three years later.
Rina became a third officer onboard and is responsible for routine navigational bridge watch and cargo watch. She also oversees mooring and anchoring operations while looking after the maintenance of firefighting and life-saving equipment, as well as related safety equipment onboard.
“I knew that the work would be team-based and involves multinational crew, so I get to meet a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds.”
Sharing her experience when she was appointed as the first female cadet of BGC, Rina recalled that she was initially nervous but was excited to move forward in her training.
Being a female cadet onboard a vessel dominated by men, she was not concerned as there was always a female buddy arrangement with another senior female officer, who is a foreigner, to coach and help reach her goals – to qualify as an officer after the three-year cadetship.
Recently promoted as an officer, Rina is grateful that her hard work paid off and she takes pride in being the first female officer at BGC.
“This is just the beginning of my career. I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go in this maritime industry,” said Rina.
Confidence was the first and foremost challenge she faced onboard, as the transition from cadet to officer was challenging. She began to take on responsibilities for other people’s health and safety and the safety of the vessel.
Being a young female seafarer, the role to supervise much older and experienced people can also be quite daunting.
Regarding her career plan, she said she wants to work her way up and be the best officer. She hopes with experience and the necessary study time, she will be able to be a Chief Officer within the next few years. She needs seamanship knowledge and time away, which she hopes to attain one day.
Having her say on the recently celebrated World Maritime Day 2020, Rina said it reminds them to take pride of the great global industry they work in. “Shipping doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves for the way it contributes to the world economy. “We should continuously highlight the benefits shipping delivers to everyone in the world,” added Rina.