Role in the Turkish and Global Maritime Industry

Fig. 1
The ratio of male to female seafarers. Source: Originally published by Drewry et al. (2009); published with kind permission of © Drewry Shipping Consultants. All rights reserved

In Turkey in 2009, the registered ratio of men and women seafarers is respectively 99.95 and 0.05 %. The total number of male seafarers was 48,915, while only 210 were female seafarers (Aktug 2009). These results show that Turkey is still behind compared with the world trend in terms of women’s participation in seafaring, but rates have been rising in recent years.

Istanbul University Engineering Faculty accepted the first female students to the department of Maritime Transportation in 1992. Maritime Transportation students did not even have any information about the department’s compulsory on-board training period as a cadet, at least 12 months before graduating from school. It was only then, that they could become Oceangoing Watch-keeping Officers to work on board in upcoming years. As the interview result with Mrs. Saniye shows, when the first Turkish female maritime student commenced working on board as a deck cadet in 1993, all companies were surprised and behaved prejudicially, because of the belief that “A woman on board brings bad luck”. Four years later though, this prejudice turned into a big amount of “pride”, each day they had worked at sea.

A 24-year old Turkish female Oceangoing Watch-keeping Officer commenced her first voyage on a LPG tanker, which was a milestone in her career. It has already been very hard to work on board any type of Cargo vessel as a young lady; a LPG tanker was twice as hard. Mrs. Saniye says:

“First, when the crew and seniors see a young lady on board, they get surprised, even up to not to be able to close their mouth and eyes! It was inevitable to feel the prejudice on your actions, but after only 4 months working on board, they realized and were also surprised, that the jobs to be done under my responsibility had been performing excellent, and so a new page in the Turkish Maritime sector has been opened; ‘Attention Men! These ladies will take over your job!’.” (Mrs. Saniye, 43 years old, Sea Experience: 2 years, Working at her own ship-brokering company)

The first women officers in Turkey became the first women Masters, year by year of their sea going experiences, on all oceans around the world. They did this against prejudice and various obstacles that occurred in their promotions. Stepping up their career paths so fast, opened doors to a new generation of young women: “Why only be a Master? What about being a Chief Engineer?

In 1997, the Yildiz Technical University Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering Department, had accepted only one female student, who graduated in 2002 and started to work on board as the first female Engineer Officer on cargo ships, even on coasters. Mrs. Bahtiyar says:

They got surprised when they first looked at me; surprised at twice when they heard that I am an Engineer Officer and will work on board as a 3rd Engineer. My first cadet vessel, a 1500 DWT coaster chemical tanker, had a very small cabin, working and living area for only 20 crew, and unfortunately no bathroom in the cabins; so the bathroom had been used in common by all crew except me. Luckily, the Chief Engineer gave me his cabin and bathroom during my training period, and he lived like a cadet when I was living comfortably in a Chief Engineer’s luxurious life on board as an Engineer Cadet.

Being the first Turkish woman third Engineer, paved the way to being the first woman second Engineer for Mrs. Bahtiyar, within 2 years sea experience. By the achievements in her career at sea, she became popular in Marine Engineering and was offered many land-based jobs such as being the Designated Person Ashore, Technical Manager and Technical Superintendent as a Marine Surveyor through her excellent working references. The decision of leaving sea was very hard for a young woman that is addicted with her whole energy and love to the engineering job and working at sea; except a “health” reason which could not be underestimated in her situation. Health issues forced Mrs. Bahtiyar to choose a land-based job, to marry and to change her life.

As a third and most popular case for female students, acceptance to Maritime Faculties first occurred in 1999 at the Istanbul Technical University Maritime Faculty. When the first female students of the faculty graduated in 2004, all chose to go to sea and aimed to be Masters or Chief Engineers. Female students’ percentage in the faculty has increased year by year, because maritime jobs had become popular as an opportunity for male and female students. In 2007, the faculty gave diplomas to 30 females and they began to work on Turkish and Foreigner Companies’ Cargo vessels, even as still young and unexperienced officers. In 2014, the faculty had a total of 118 female students in the Marine and Engineering Departments (Istanbul Technical University 2012) and have over 250 female alumni, who cover the biggest percentage of the Turkish Maritime Sector (Basar 2013).

3.2 Working Conditions and the Period of Turkish Women at Sea

According to survey results, 48 % of women seafarers choose to work on board until the maximum age of 30–32, with an average 6–7 years sea experience (Table 1).

Table 1
Working areas of women seafarers and average sea experiences

The number of women

Percentage (%)

Average sea experience

On-board jobs



6–7 years

Land-based jobs



1–3 years

Academic jobs



1–5 years




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