Interview with Second Officer Mara Colleen Ramasola

1. Every young girl has aspirations. What were yours?

Widespread and typical workplace gender-stereotyping had a great influence and inspired me to prove that women, too, can participate and excel. As a young girl of the 21st century, where women have supposedly gained equal rights, I did not, and do not, intend to be fettered in my career, and as a proud seafarer my greatest aspiration is to achieve four golden stripes on my shoulders and finally command a ship.

2. What is your favourite part of your job?

Aside from the basic notion of “seeing the beauty of the world for free”, my absolute favourite thing is engaging with and experiencing the culture of every place or country that I get to visit. It amazes me whenever I see how diversified the world is, and how each part differs from another, with just a border in between. Also, cultural diversity is very evident on board, where you get to work with different people during every contract. Experiencing different cultures and getting along with different people has made me more adaptive in life, which I think is essential in this career.

As a Second Officer – “The Navigator”, as it is generally known – all route planning, chart and publication updates, bridge equipment upkeep and maintenance are my responsibility. Another favourite part of my job is when a new voyage, or the next voyage, is confirmed, so I get to plot the new route, plan for the most economical passage and provide the ship with all information about the voyage e.g. an accurate weather forecast and security measures, and also handle the mandatory report to Vessel Traffic on approach and make sure the route is safe from all navigational hazards, especially in coastal navigation. There can be nothing more interesting than providing the ship and crew with a safe and efficient voyage …. and that is in my hands.

Synergy crew discussing ship technical operations

3. Why did you choose to join Synergy Marine Group?

I started my seafaring career with Norden, and now I have seen both companies. I think I can see why Norden has chosen Synergy as a manager. I have decided to stay with Synergy, as I have seen that Synergy, too, has core values which align with my personal perspective and beliefs. Synergy Marine Group offers opportunity at an entry level position, and Officers can have an early chance to work up the career ladder. The company also encourages seafarers to expand their credentials and there are opportunities for continuing training and education. Also, as Synergy has acquired more fleets, there is likely to be continuity and more chance for career progression.

4. How does sailing with Synergy differ from other shipping companies?

Sailing with a company with matching core values makes me feel safe and secure, not only in career terms but as an individual, too.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I can see myself as a senior officer within Synergy. I aspire to be the first Filipino female Captain in the company.

6. What are some of the advantages of having women on board ships? 

When I first started sailing it was more difficult, because ships are huge and the job requires a lot of physical activity, but with the right management work can be suitably planned and properly delegated. Initially, a woman on board was like a foreign object in a huge space occupied by men. So there was an initial feeling of isolation, but over time the environment normalised as everyone adjusted and adapted. One advantage of having women on board is that it creates balance, and a more normal working and social environment i.e. one more comparable to that on land. Also, everyone becomes more open-minded and the camaraderie on board is strong.

women seafarer in ship

7. What changes do you believe the maritime industry needs to implement to improve gender equality and attract more women to the seafaring profession?

I think that many companies still need to be more open about having women on board. I still hear some resisting acceptance of the fact that women are capable of working at sea. The industry should implement rules that protect women on board, though, and it saddens me to hear stories of abuse, which still goes on, even in 2021/22. I know that it is still a risk, working within a male-dominated industry, and (even though good changes are happening every day) I think that internationally-approved and applicable rules as regards women on board will attract more to the industry, as they will know that they are being treated correctly.

Female seafarer on board

Also, though we are in the 21st century, many ships are still old school, in terms of equipment, as well as the onboard environment. If the idea is to promote gender equality and attract women, all owners and also managers must get up to date with tools and technology. Few women can genuinely compete with men if everything is set according to physical strength – hence why, historically, ships have been manned just by men – but a modern vessel, with high-end IT and good links to shore, is a user-friendly thing that everyone can operate, and thus an environment that can attract women to the seafaring profession, rather than deterring them.

8. What do you do when you are ashore?

Going ashore on port calls is one of the best times as a seafarer, and you get time to unwind and enjoy yourself. As much as possible I visit nearby tourist attractions and of course eat local foods. There is always something special in every place, especially when it comes to food, as everywhere has its own particular delicacies. You just need to know who to ask, and how to get around, to try the many and varied experiences.

9.  If you had some advice for your younger self, what would it be?

I would advise my younger self to do more in the maritime industry than just working on board, to try other fields sooner than I did and not limit myself to sailing, and to venture out into other areas, as the industry has so much more to offer than just seagoing. My advice would also be to invest in myself more in terms of career growth and development i.e. to enhance my skills and knowledge, and thus not confine myself to what is required only for my current position, but to be more futuristic and always open to learning new things.

Marine officer on ship