सोमवार, 14 मार्च 2016

Ms SUNEHA GADPANDE : TO SAIL THE SEVEN SEAS, THE ADVENTURE.



To touch new shores, meet new people, new nation and new community, a dream to be an officer and a gentleman, only for the boys, alas!

For me it was not only a dream but a challenge to conquer male bastion when opportunity came knocking.

It’s a journey less traveled by any Indian women. Having embarked on the path to become an officer & finally a Captain in the Merchant Navy has made me realize the numerous unheard of sacrifices the seafarer has made for the society and being a part of this distinguished breed makes me proud knowing our service delivers 90% needs of every household, every industry in the world.

Although not directly, but I’m aware that my career path in the shipping industry provides for much inspiration to young and determined women in our country who have an earnest desire to choose a career that is challenging and less explored in a world striving for Gender Equality, thereby establishing a continued commitment towards social & economic progress.

When the nation believes that the girl child should be empowered with all necessary education & support, hereby a nation’s girl takes this opportunity to share the life of a sailor thus far on board a merchant ship.


I was studying Mechanical Engineering at Bhopal NIT so as to join Indian Navy when I received the call letter from The Shipping Corporation of India to join as apprentice Navigating Officer in 2003 on basis of IIT prelims exam. I was the batch commander during my training to command a batch of 35 cadets. I being among the first batch of girls in SCI Ltd and the Indian merchant navy have been part of a rigorous life on board mostly on crude oil tankers, containers & passenger ships without any senior women sea farers to guide.

The first 24 months I have worked in shipping parlance as an apprentice and had a grueling time. Besides odd jobs, women on board have to face discrimination not only on terms of gender but also professionally as we have to constantly prove ourselves.

On completion of trainee sea time, attended maritime college to complete the courses and examinations required to acquire second mate's license. After being 3rd Officer, I was promoted as 2nd officer – who’s in charge of navigation, later completed the courses & examination to obtain a Chief officers License followed by grabbing Master’s Certificate of Competency to command a foreign going vessel.

I have sailed with SCI Ltd, the Navratna Company for 10 long years and finally was accepted by the Japanese company – NYK Ltd. They offered a wonderful opportunity to become the first and only Indian Lady Officer to be inducted in their fleet, which in a way has created an opening for other women officers willing to join a Foreign Company. My present stint with NYK has been since 2012 as a Chief Officer and on the verge of getting Command – The Captain of a Foreign Flag Ship - The Pinnacle making me the First Indian Women to Command a Foreign Flag Ship.

Marine world was considered way out of a woman’s domain. It’s still a male dominated industry having extremely low percentage of women professionals. It’s been a huge step so far that one of the largest Japanese Company is even thinking about allowing another national woman to be in line with their national men. They have yet not had their national women at this rank so far.

Women have taken the world by storm on different occasions, for different reasons. Sadly that has never stopped world from judging them as ‘weaker’ sex. But that only means women have sought even greater pleasure in proving their mettle time and again. It would be misleading to the budding officers if I say that I’ve reached this position due to some support. In my 13 years of sailing there was not a single event to mention where I was asked not to do a particular task/job as I’m a woman, rather was nominated for a job with those questionable eyes of accepting a challenge. So, bluntly I say, I’m at this position because I deserve to be here.

Life on ship is no bed of roses and no one knows better than a mariner. Climbing up the hierarchy level on ship is no chills play. It requires guts along with steady mental and physical strength. Being a Second In-Command of a ship is a big deal; being a Female Second In-Command is even bigger one!

I have been working mostly on crude oil tankers and now products. My Job is not something that other women cannot do. Though the work on ship requires considerable amount of physical strength, a trained women officer can easily handle it. Many men think that women do not have the capacity, but it is upto the women to prove these men wrong as there is intelligence which is required apart from force. And it is very much possible if there is enough dedication. I want women to explore several great opportunities that the shipping industry provides.

The question isn’t who’s going to LET ME! But its rather who’s going to STOP ME!


A woman in the maritime industry lives several lives simultaneously. She has to play the role of a mother, a wife, a girlfriend, a boss, and finally a warrior! Something not everyone can do!
With this platform I want to inform all the women out there not only in India but to the world that they have immense potential to seek a respectable position in the maritime field. It’s important for women to believe in themselves and look for unique career opportunities in the maritime industry. Hoping my achievements thus far not only creates windows of opportunity to women seafarers in India but also provides for a reason to dream big.

SHIP AHOY.

“Behind every successful woman, there is the woman herself.”

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