INTERVIEW: A day in the life of an Ardmore Seafarer – Isha Shandilya

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After training in Mumbai, Isha has been working with Ardmore Shipping over the past 6 months.

As of last year, less than 2% of the 1.2 million seafarers worldwide were female. We caught up with Isha, one of our seafarers paving the way to improving gender equality and diversity, to learn more about her experiences as a seafarer, her motivations for pursuing a career within shipping  and the changes she believes the maritime industry needs to make in order to increase the number of women at sea.

1. It would be great if you could provide us with a brief background of your time in the maritime industry and with Ardmore Shipping – where did it all begin?

It was my grandfather who initially motivated me to become a seafarer. He was a lieutenant commander in the Indian Navy, and an inspiration. I have always been fascinated with the ocean and knew I wanted to work at sea. I was not eligible to apply for Indian Navy, therefore explored alternative options and decided I wanted to become a commercial seafarer. I applied for deck cadet training at Anglo Eastern and after taking my exams in Mumbai, commenced my training onboard.

2. What changes do you believe the maritime industry needs to implement in order to improve gender equality?

A lack of visibility and awareness of women in seafaring roles, in turn, means that less women are aware of the range of opportunities available to them across the maritime industry. I think improving the visibility of women within the industry and also educating the current male seafaring workforce on the importance of gender equality and inclusion would be beneficial. When I first came aboard as a Deck Cadet, it was the first time most of the crew had worked with a woman, and some of them seemed unsure of how to approach me as fellow crew – which should not in any way differ from that of working with a man. The culture at Ardmore is good, and the female cadets are really well supported, however I think the biggest issue lies in the industry as a whole with a lack of visibility of female seafarers onboard and beyond.

It is, however, refreshing to see the number of female seafarers increasing day by day and it was fantastic to see ​Captain Radhika Menon, Master of the oil products tanker Sampurna Swarajya recently awarded the IMO bravery award for her work out at sea. These are the people who will encourage younger women to join the shipping industry by being successful role models. 

3. Tell us what a typical day at sea looks like for you?

On a typical day out at sea, I wake at 3.45am and shadow an officer until around 8am. I then stop for breakfast and spend the rest of the morning on deck learning a range of various skills and procedures. We spend the early afternoon studying and then spend an hour or so learning from the chief officer. No two days are the same and the learning opportunities are fantastic.

4. What is our favourite part of the world to travel in?

Canada is, so far, the most beautiful place I have visited with Ardmore. The world is a big place and I am excited to have the opportunity to explore!

5. What are the biggest challenges/rewards as a seafarer?

The role is challenging in the sense that to be a good officer you must be both physically and mentally agile. Being supporting with regular training and being surrounded by knowledgeable colleagues is extremely beneficial. One of the greatest rewards has to be the responsibility and subsequent maturity you develop from such responsibility at a young age. The opportunity to travel the world is also great.

6. What are your future aspirations?

It is one of my lifetime dreams and goals to be one of Ardmore’s female captains and I will work hard to make this happen.

Check out Isha’s travels: