KOCHI: Men have been riding the success wave all these years on the high seas, but women seem to be stopping them in their tracks of late, if the number of girls joining for marine engineering is any indication. The good pay package and the thrill involved could make more follow suit.
Data from Cusat’s Kunjali Marakkar School of Marine Engineering (KMSME) says 35 female students are pursuing the course currently. Women are also getting placements in big shipping companies such as Maersk Line, Carnival Cruise and Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BMS). Cruiseliners offer them Rs 1.5 lakh per month at start.
Associate professor and course in-charge Jis George said Nila John was the first girl cadet to pass out in 2017. “She works currently with Synergy Shipmanagement. Two girl cadets, who passed in 2019 and 2020, got into Carnival Shipping. Three from the 2021 batch are with Seaspan Shipping, Maersk and BMS,” he said.
Among the seven girls from the 2022 batch, three are with Maersk, said the course in- charge. As freshers, they are normally called engine cadets or junior engineers. Their salary goes up gradually, said Venugopal R, a professor.
Name varies and so does the pay structure. “Foreign cargo ships offer $300-$500 for cadets while Indian companies offer Rs 30,000-Rs 40,000. But again the story is different in the case of cruise liners. Companies like Carnival offer around Rs 1.5 lakh to fresh cadets,” said Jis.
“With a few sails under their hats, the cadets become eligible for promotion tests. It’s purely based on competence. Male and female cadets are treated equally. Once they are promoted as fourth engineers, pay increases by $1,200 to $2,000. In Indian companies, a fourth engineer gets around Rs 80,000,” said Venugopal.
Unnimaya Unnikrishnan, a marine cadet with Carnival Shipping, said she was the first Indian female to be recruited by the company. “Carnival started recruiting Indian male cadets only a few years ago,” said the youngster from Kalamassery. Unnimaya, who has one sailing under her hat, will join the ship again on Thiruvonam day at Miami.
“Working in an engine room is very tough. The heat and the heavy equipment can easily defeat you. Once you master that, everything becomes easy. Another problem the female cadets face is getting adjusted to a work environment dominated by men. But that too becomes okay after some time,” said the cadet who worked initially on a tanker ship. “That’s a very different atmosphere,” said the cadet who needs to work only four months.
Gopika, who had wanted to join the Indian Navy after her engineering course, has been recruited by Maersk. “I’ll join after getting my degree certificate,” she said. “When I came across the KMSME marine engineering course at Cusat, I did some research and found merchant navy to be equally interesting,” said Gopika.
International Maritime Organisation (IMO) partnerships and projects department chief Jose Matheickal said a global drive has been launched to bring more girls into the maritime sector. Keeping this in mind, the IMO started a women-in-maritime campaign.
“The organisation has been encouraging lots of countries to develop programmes aimed at bringing more women into the sector. It has also been urging the industry to change the way they recruit,” he said. However, we have to travel a long distance when it comes to bringing in women in the maritime sector, he added.