Interview with Deck Cadet Apurva Deshpande on the “MAERSK KATALIN”

1. Where did you complete your maritime training?

I am a BSc Nautical Science graduate from Tolani Maritime Institute at Talegaon, near Pune.

2. Why did you choose to be a seafarer?

I think it is easier to ask – why not? It is a career that offers financial independence at a young age, a completely out of the box lifestyle, an unmistakable opportunity to explore – as to yourself, as well as the entire world – and the privilege of witnessing the beauty of the ocean, probably more so in one day than most people see in their whole life. Being in the Merchant Navy is everything that I could want in a profession. It is the complete package.

3. Are there any challenges that you have faced on board as a woman seafarer?

No.

I studied for three years at what was an almost all-boys college and did the same training as the boys in all respects, and I have lived according to my maxim that “there is nothing a man can do that a woman cannot do”. Certainly I have faced challenges as a Cadet, just like all other Cadets in their early days at sea, but I have not had any issue, or experienced any problem, just because I am a woman.

4. What do you enjoy most about working at sea?

The best part about being at sea is the sea itself. Every day is different and a seafarer’s life can be tough, but no matter how hard my day has been – for example with late night manoeuvrings, taking stations or an especially difficult shift on deck – any stress just vanishes when I have a coffee at sunset and simply look out over the waves.

5. What are your future aspirations?

I want to command a vessel, one day. A decade further on from that, I want to look back at my journey from Cadet to Captain and say to myself, yes, I made it. 

6. What changes do you believe the maritime industry needs to implement in order to improve gender equality?

To get into shipping, the first step for anyone is the selection process.

Nowadays, many and maybe most companies have started to take women as seafarers, and some companies are a lot further advanced than others in that respect. But there are still those that do not allow women to enrol as seafarers. That is more than a hindrance. It is a bar at the door. 

That is where the industry needs to change. Creating a balance in the workforce is only possible if more and more companies accept and encourage women seafarers, and none prohibits them.

7. How has your experience of sailing with Synergy been so far?

It has been great. The Cadet programme at Synergy is exceptional. As a future officer with the company, suitable exposure to a wide variety of   tasks is essential in order to boost self-confidence. Having this right from the start is what all Cadets dream of, and it is exactly what we get at Synergy

8. What is the one thing that should change to make life better on board?

Seafarers can be away for between six and nine months, and the only thing that meaningfully connects them to their families is the internet. Better internet connectivity could improve onboard life. 

9. It is still comparatively rare to find women seafarers, but things are changing for the better. Please share your views on this.

This is my first contract and I am already sailing with another woman seafarer, a fellow Deck Cadet. It is no longer rare to have more than one woman on board, and I hope this can soon be the case on every vessel. Certainly the overall gender ratio will eventually improve, and though it will take time it will definitely be worth the wait. 

10. What advice would you give to anyone considering a career at sea, especially young women seafarers?

If, like me, you have great motivation and are willing to work hard, then likewise you can get there, too. A career at sea is simply amazing.  But do your research first. It is not all about dress uniforms, pretty sunset pictures and exploring the world. It also involves working hard in dirty boiler suits and filthy weather, living far and long away from your family and sacrificing the social life you once had. Life at sea is great, but before applying make sure that you would find happiness among its pros and cons, as that is what you will need.