"Shipping must draw talent from every corner of the globe and every sector of the population to ensure its own sustainability."


​The World Maritime Day Parallel Event focused on the theme, "Empowering women int he maritime community". Panels highlighted the leadership role of women in the maritime community - which contributes to the strengthening of the maritime sector and the boost of countries' sustainable economies.

"Shipping must draw talent from every corner of the globe and every sector of the population to ensure its own sustainability."

This was a key message from IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, in his opening remarks to  the 2019 IMO World Maritime Day Parallel Event (15-18 September), held in Cartagena, Colombia. 

"Improving the participation of women in society leads to better social and economic outcomes. This is also true in the maritime community. So, it is critical that women are provided with equal access to opportunities at all levels and within all sectors of the maritime industry. Experience shows that, when they are given those opportunities, women are strong and successful – continually challenging old-fashioned and outdated perceptions and proving that, today, the maritime industries are for everyone. It's not about your gender, it's about what you can do," Mr. Lim said.

The World Maritime theme for 2019, "Empowering women in the maritime community" was a prominent theme throughout the high-level event. Speakers and panellists also emphasised the relevance of the United Nations agenda for sustainable development, with its associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mr. Lim highlighted the challenges ahead - including the needs for action to combat climate change as presented in IMO's initial GHG strategy - as well as the opportunities for a sector which drives global trade and development.

"The global shipping sector is essential for a sustainable future. But maritime activities themselves need to be sustainable - and an important part of IMO's role is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to global trade and development in a sustainable way," Mr. Lim said.

The international audience heard from Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice-President of the Republic of Colombia, who welcomed participants to the event on behalf of the President of Colombia. She reiterated the relevance of the theme of the event, empowering women, and emphasised Colombia's commitment to the sustainable development goals. She highlighted the importance of the oceans and the maritime sector to national and global development. 

Following the opening session, a panel session, moderated by Lena Gothberg, producer of the Shipping Podcast, focused on the real impact of the role of women in all areas of the maritime sector, as well as the efforts already made in different fields (industry, government, international organizations and academia). It highlighted the leadership role of women in the maritime community, which contributes to the strengthening of the maritime sector and the boost of countries' sustainable economies.

Also on day one, Maja Markovčić Kostelac, Executive Director of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), shared her views on how women and technology contribute to the sustainability of the maritime sector; on the untapped potential and on the main challenges that lie ahead. Her keynote speech was based on her own personal experiences as well as  on the knowledge and expertise of EMSA in the field. 

At a side event, a panel discussed the SDGS in relation to the governance of the oceans from the maritime perspective. The Panel highlighted the need for awareness and commitment of all those involved in the maritime industry to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and made a transversal analysis between the elements of Maritime Governance and the fulfilment of the SDGs.

IMO's Juvenal Shiundu highlighted the successes to date of IMO's Women in Maritime Programme, a highly successful campaign to promote women in the maritime community for more than 30 years.

With IMO's help, seven regional Women in Maritime Associations have been established, covering more than 150 countries and dependent territories. IMO provides gender-specific fellowships and scholarships, both at our own maritime education establishments – the International Maritime Law Institute and the World Maritime University – and at others, too.

WISTA International – the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association – was awarded consultative status with IMO in 2018.

Ministerial round table

Transport and maritime Ministers and senior officials from 11 countries took part in a roundtable discussion with IMO Secretary‑General Lim. Discussions focused on two main themes; strategies to promote global  partnerships in order to ensure the long-term, sustainable delivery of the IMO's Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP); and exploring ways to strengthen regional cooperation on maritime issues, including empowerment of women.  Ministers and senior officials from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Singapore, South Africa and The United Arab Emirates shared ideas and strategies in a very fruitful discussion

Education and training

On day two, Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President, World Maritime University (WMU), spoke on the theme, "Empowering Women in Maritime Ocean Affairs: The UN Decade for Ocean Science". Her presentation highlighted the need to remove existing barriers to women's participation and empowerment, calling for innovative approaches from everyone involved in the maritime sector to help resolve these issues.

Xiaojie Zhang, chair of the IMO Council, provided information on IMO's background, as well as on its latest progress, achievements and challenges. He highlighted the importance of developing partnerships with other UN bodies, stakeholders and the private sector to share information and build consensus to achieve together the 2030 Agenda.

Another panel discussed the revolution of the maritime industry in the era of new technology.

Finally, five women with illustrious careers in the maritime field shared their stories of how they achieved success in a deeply moving and personal exchange of experiences. They were: Katy Ware, Director of Maritime Safety and Standards, United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency; Despina Panayiotou, President, WISTA International; Liliana Monsalve, Head of Claims, IOPC Funds; Angela Pinilla, Manager, ECOPETROL; and Helen Buni, focal point for the IMO Women in Maritime programme.

All paid homage to the key mentors and sponsors who helped shape their careers and encouraged the audience to seek out or serve as a mentor for young women entering the maritime endeavour. 

Closing ceremony - South Africa takes the flag for 2020

During the closing ceremony, IMO Secretary‑General Lim presented a commemorative plaque was presented to Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice-President of the Republic of Colombia. She then handed over the World Maritime Day Parallel Event flag to H.E. Mr. Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Transport, South Africa. South Africa will host the 2020 Parallel Event.

The event in Colombia was attended by representatives from several countries, including government representatives and representatives from the maritime industry, non-governmental organizations and academia.