Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 



December 1, 2019

Photo courtesy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

At press time we had just returned from a junket to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where we attended an IMO conference on Sustainable Maritime Development.

In 2015, the 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 related targets which emphasize the need to consider the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development simultaneously.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is still the world's main oil exporting country and the country hopes to increase its position as an international trade partner and transportation hub. Jeddah Islamic Port is the country's largest in terms of volume and cargo handling capacity. It handles more than 65 percent of all cargoes imported through Saudi ports, and boasts 19 container berths with the ability to accommodate 20,000-TEU ships.

Objectives of the Jeddah conference included accelerating IMO's greenhouse gas initiatives and combatting climate change, but also more tangible goals such as reducing emissions and pollution, building on existing initiatives for maritime safety and security and improving international cooperation regarding maritime traffic.

One of the primary objectives was an effort to promote the increased participation of women in the day-to-day operation of vessels and terminals in roles other than cooks and clerks, along the lines of the IMO's world Maritime Day theme "Empowering women in the maritime community."

The relevant skills of women in the workforce notwithstanding, at a time when it is increasingly difficult, worldwide, to find people interested in working in the maritime industry, it is increasingly short-sighted to disregard 50 percent of the population.

The fact that the topic of female empowerment was being presented in Saudi Arabia was not lost on the delegates, nor was it downplayed by the hosts. Instead, Saudi women played an active role as both delegates and presenters.

Much of the credit for the new freedoms being enjoyed by Saudi women goes to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has also eased other restrictions on women, and indeed several of the attendees noted a dramatic shift in how Saudi women are regarded as opposed to just a year ago.

Credit for the empowerment of women in the worldwide maritime industry, however, still belongs to the world's female mariners themselves, who have made their own way in what remains a male-dominated industry.

The conference presenters included several women with impressive credentials, including Nancy Karigithu, Kenya's Principal Secretary of Shipping and Maritime Affairs, H.E. Eng. Hessa Al Malek, the United Arab Emirates Maritime Sector Executive Director and Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, the President of the IMO's World Maritime University.

As doors continue to open for women in the maritime industry, it's important to note that most of those doors have been opened by the women themselves.

Chris can be reached at


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