Malin Gåsvær Haugen, a 24-year-old deck cadet, recently returned home to Bergen after an eight-week voyage from Panama. She is halfway through her cadetship, with two more trips before being promoted to officer.
The most recent trip was special: it was Malin's first time away from home for Christmas. Fortunately, she tells us, Bow Olympus was sailing and could pause for celebrations, as opposed to being in port, where the workday would be busier with less opportunity for festivities. Thus, Malin appears to have missed Christmas at home a little less, as she described the feast they were served – including a pig on a spit – and the double joy of celebrating Christmas on two days, for the Filipino crew that celebrate on December 25th and the Norwegians on the 24th.
The previous trip was also noteworthy for another reason. "We were more Norwegian women than Norwegian men," Malin exclaimed with delight of the group of three men and four women Norwegian seafarers. This is not a common occurrence in the male-dominated industry, but it bodes well for its efforts to attract more women.
Optimism in the industry
It is also the result of a record percentage of women enrolling in Odfjell's award-winning trainee program in 2021. Last year, one-third of new recruits were female, while the previous year's record of 18 recruits was maintained. Under record-high interest from students to join the maritime industry in general, there have also never been so many women who want to study to be in the industry.
It is a positive development, and with the help of government incentives, it is sure to improve, with plenty of opportunities available in the Norwegian shipping industry.
Malin, who aspires to be a captain within the decade, has prior experience as an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) surveyor, which has taken her aboard many ships, where she has been met with surprise due to her gender. Although she took it in stride, and because being the lone female isn't new to her, it's incredibly heartwarming to share in her pride that they outnumbered the men on her last voyage.
Sofie Brasetvik, a 22-year-old engine cadet who was also on the previous trip and is about to embark on her final tour as a cadet in mid-February before promotion, is not as clear about her path in the industry as Malin but is encouraged by the fact that there are so many options to consider.
Although she expects to be at sea for the next five years, she also sees a future in which she can apply her skills on land. This includes the maritime industry and even hospitals due to the breadth of knowledge she will have gained while working with the various equipment.
"I'm not afraid of not getting a job because there are so many opportunities," says the undaunted Sofie, who is now simply focused on completing her cadet period and becoming an engine officer.
"This is especially true with my education because you can do so many different things later."
She would be following in the footsteps of many previous Odfjell recruits who have stayed to contribute to the maritime industry, within and outside of Odfjell.
More female recruits would be welcome
Malin and Sofie have a clear advice for other women considering, or even hesitant, to enter the field: dive in headfirst and give it a shot. They've both thrived despite having to start from scratch or being thrown into situations they never expected to be in.
“I’m a girl's girl,” says Malin. “I can get dirt on my fingers, but at the same time I like to dress up and enjoy life. It’s just to try because you never know if you don't try. The first time I came on board, I thought, ‘What the beep am I doing here?’ You just see all these pipes and everything, and you're thinking, ‘Am I at the wrong place?’”
Sofie also tells that she and her female peers at the start of her career shared that they did not know much about an engine room, being at sea, the maritime industry, or even using a screwdriver.
“I think it's possible for everyone to just start from the beginning,” she says. “If you really want to do it, I think everyone can learn it.”
And, like the industry, Odfjell has lofty goals for encouraging women like Malin and Sofie to join. For one, the company is addressing the gender imbalance in the field by aiming for a minimum of 30% female representation in each department of its shipping shore organization by 2030.
This is the first in a series of articles about what it's like to be an Odfjell cadet. Continue reading for part 2 to learn how Malin and Sofie became Odfjell recruits.
Eva Storeide, crewing officer, is available for applications and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. To apply for cadet positions in Norway, send your resumé, application letter, grades/courses, and a photo by March 1.
Written by Zayana Zulkiflee