2nd Officer Katherine Lim Yniego on ‘Nord Ferrum’

1. Why did you choose a career in seafaring?

When I was a child, my dream was always to travel the world. I love exciting adventures and to grapple with the different challenges in life, so I chose to be a seafarer in order to fulfil that childhood dream.

2. How did you join the Synergy Marine Group, and what has been your experience sailing with them?

I was with TSM Shipping Inc, and was one of the many who came across when the ship management part of the business was transferred to Synergy. I saw this as an opportunity to share my skills and knowledge and hopefully greatly contribute to the success of the company. Though it was not my first experience of sailing (as I had 11 years on Norden tankers and bulkers) I still felt wholly at home, as sailing with Synergy is also very exciting.

3. Please describe a typical seafaring day

I doubt there is such a thing, as there is so much variety, but I always start my day with a smile, and also a prayer, followed by some gentle stretching and after that my proper daily exercise. Then after a shower and some food I will usually be on watch for the next several hours, and among other crew members from all over the globe, on what is very serious duty, constantly monitoring and reacting to the ship’s situation. I will ordinarily be fixing and plotting our position on the chart using high tech aids like radar, GPS and of course ECDIS, and also the basics like the position of the sun and compass bearings and azimuth. Then, towards the end of my watch, I get ready to hand over to the next person and look forward to relaxing and feeling the sea breeze. That is a good example of the kind of day that I have on a ship that, as well as my workplace, is also my home.

4. Do you have any Synergy role ashore?

Not as such, but I have been a part-time instructor in various maritime training centres in the Philippines, and have also just completed Wellbeing Champions Training for Women Seafarers.

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

Two things – what I think are excellent salary and incentives, and the chance to see and also experience interesting and unusual places.

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

The one thing, which I know is still not reliably so everywhere, is a good, sound relationship among all the crew. Living among different cultures and people with varied backgrounds, beliefs and languages can sometimes be very challenging, but if on all sailings we know how to handle such differences, and live harmoniously, life is surely better.

7. Have you faced any particular challenges as a female seafarer?

Strictly speaking, the answer is yes, once, but it was not because I am a woman, but because I became pregnant during a short break, and then reported back for duty but without at that time knowing that I was pregnant. Due to how the pregnancy went in the early stages I had to leave the ship just a few months later, and afterwards had to take a few years’ pause in my sailing.

Diversified crew on ship

8. Female seafarers are still comparatively scarce, but things are changing for the better. Do you agree?

Yes, I do. There are now noticeably more, and increasingly this is getting talked about in the wider industry, and nowadays almost always in terms of acknowledgement and approval, rather than with the derision and disdain of the past. Depending a bit on where you are, all that is either fast going or has wholly gone.

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

It is somewhere between cliché and modern folklore that women are better at multitasking, but they really are organised, result-focused and passionate at work. These characteristics greatly contribute to achieving goals on board ship, while also creating a more normal social environment, and one that is a lot more like that ashore.

10. Has being a seafarer had any impact on your life at home?

Yes, being a seafarer has had a great impact on my life at home. I suppose that, as outlined at 7 above, it started as the other way round, but nowadays, as the mother of two young children, being away from them for long stretches is my greatest challenge, every day. My husband also has a demanding, full time job, so the nanny has a major role and the children are growing up fast. However, with my seafarer pay and a combined income we are lucky to find that we can always provide more than the family needs. 

11. What further changes do you think the maritime industry needs to make to improve gender equality and attract more women to a career in seafaring?

It is necessary to improve career awareness and preparedness, so improvements should start at the basic maritime education stage, i.e. at school. It is nowhere near too radical to say that schools should make an effort in attracting girls to the maritime world by actively helping female students in the pursuit of seafaring as a career.

12. What are your aspirations and where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself continuing to grow as a successful seafarer and sharing my expertise with future mariners. I am also looking forward to spending more time with my children, if I can achieve that, and overall to having a peaceful and happy existence by better balancing work and home life.

13. If you ever changed to a completely shore-based role, what would you miss most about working at sea?

Working on board is very challenging, but it is also exciting, and involves dealing with different nationalities with varying cultures and beliefs and, thus, developing lasting friendships. Teamwork is of the utmost importance, and as crew members we rely on each other not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. These two aspects are what I would miss most if I stopped working at sea. 

14. Share something interesting about yourself that we might not know.

As I said at 1 above, when I was a child I always wanted to explore the world, but I first thought I might do that on my bicycle, and I also dreamt of flying a plane. Now, I do something almost in between i.e. I travel the globe by ship.

And I generally keep this to myself, but I am in fact a very good singer.

15. What advice would you give to anyone considering a career at sea, and also to young female seafarers?

To all future seafarers: always reach for your dreams, and if you ever get tired, rest but never quit. Pray, and always be kind to all, and though you will never know what the future may bring you will always know that you did your best and worked hard to attain your dreams.