Jamaica’s successful women can serve as an example to the whole maritime industry

World shipping can learn a lot from Jamaica when it comes to equality in the maritime workplace because, in Jamaica, people are accustomed to women leading.

That’s the message from four influential and successful women who took part in a Women In Maritime Affairs webinar organised by Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Transport & Mining as part of its campaign for re-election to Category C of the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“There are great lessons to be taken from Jamaica,” advised Kerry-Ann McKoy Tulloch, an experienced Attorney-at-Law who has played an integral part in the development of Maritime Strategy in Jamaica, serving on the Boards of the Port Authority of Jamaica, the Kingston Container Terminal, the Council of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), and is a member of multiple Enterprise Teams in the maritime and transport areas. “In Jamaica women are expected to lead. We are raised with that expectation,” she said.

Chairman of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Corah Ann Robertson Sylvester, joked: “Women run Jamaica.” Ms Robertson Sylvester is Chief Executive Officer of Seaboard Freight & Shipping Jamaica Ltd, a subsidiary of Seaboard Marine Ltd, which provides direct, regular service between North America, the Caribbean, Central, and South America and is a Director of the Shipping Association of Jamaica and a CMU Council member. She is the only woman to have held the role of Vice President of the Caribbean Shipping Association in its 50-year history.

She stressed the need for women in maritime to promote the opportunities for employment to other women, in order to raise awareness as well as to serve as examples of what can be achieved. “The Maritime Authority of Jamaica has been at the forefront of encouraging women,” she commented.

“Women in Jamaica can be seen as an example to the rest of the world,” said Dr Hortense Ross-Innerarity, a two-time graduate of the CMU and the first female Superintendent of Pilotage at the Port Authority of Jamaica, a position she has held since1998. She has also served as an adjunct lecturer at the Caribbean Maritime Institute (now CMU). She pointed out: “This is a model. It is working for Jamaica and it can work for other countries as well.”

Dr. Ross-Innerarity outlined that women are judged differently from men – on results not on potential – but added that, thanks to the advantages of technology, “we are now in a situation that is gender neutral”.

Stating that “women are rising to the challenge and surpassing expectations,” Ms McKoy Tulloch explained that “women manage differently from men. Both approaches are required and help to build a consensus.”

Dr. Ross-Innerarity told the webinar that the industry needs to focus more on recruitment and retention. Explaining that the ship is “your office” she said it was important to demonstrate how easy it is to transition to a maritime career ashore. “We have many success stories both on shore and at sea,” she told the webinar.

One such success story is former Chief Mate Hisheba Mckenzie who graduated from the Caribbean Maritime Institute, and spent more than 10 years travelling the world, working on merchant vessels. She is now a Mate at the Port Authority of Jamaica (Harbours department), responsible for a team of four seamen.

She enthused about the benefits of a career at sea while acknowledging it is “not for the faint-hearted.” Advising women to “just be strong,” she praised the mentorship of older women in the maritime sector.

The panellists commended a number of other successful female Jamaican maritime specialists, highlighting the Maritime Authority of Jamaica’s Deputy Director General Claudia Grant, who was unable to attend due to the fact she was chairing an IMO committee meeting that day, as well as Ms Jodi Munn Barrow, Secretary General of the Caribbean Memorandum Of Understanding (CMOU) on Port State Control.

Pointing out that many of the panellists also ‘multi-tasked’ their successful careers with family responsibilities, Ms McKoy Tulloch said it was possible to “have it all” if the appropriate support systems were available. “There is space in the maritime industry for all players,” she concluded.

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