2019 IMO Day of the Seafarer: An interview with Captain Maria Kristina B. Javellana

Today is the annual IMO Day of the Seafarer. This year, the theme ‘I am onboard with gender equality’ emphasises the importance and value of women within the professional ranks. Day of the Seafarer provides an opportunity to highlight some of the professional women in the industry, particularly in the seafarer community, and their experiences.

At V.Group, we see professional women all around the world doing incredible work, but in celebration of the Day of the Seafarer, we chatted with Captain Maria Kristina B. Javellana about her role as a Captain in the maritime industry.


Firstly, what attracted you to the maritime industry?

We can’t deny the fact the promising salary it offers to us compared to other onshore jobs but this industry is very well suited with my personality as it offers global travel, unexpected challenges and working with people from different cultures and traditions. In this field, you just don’t grow in one aspect of your life but rather you are developing different aspects which teaches you to become more diversified in your chosen profession and life.


What are your favourite aspects of your role?

Being a Captain involves being a leader and a trainer at the same time. One of my greatest rewards in this field is to impart what I have learned and experienced to my fellow sea personnel, juniors and cadets. I also love to deal with challenges onboard. I also have to be alert at all times because decision making is part of my daily responsibilities.


What attracted you to applying for a role with V.Group?

V.Group is one of the most well-diversified Ship Management Company which gives an equal opportunity for everybody, not just only at sea but on shore as well.


Can you explain what a typical day for you looks like?

A typical day can have a general routine. When at sea, we start with our tool box meeting with the whole team based on our planned jobs to be carried out. Personally, I have to monitoring and answer emails and verify all the work that is being carried out onboard. During breaks, we have short informal safety talks to everybody is always updated on the latest regulations. We also have time for social gatherings for long voyages such as using the gym or watching movies with the crew.

Our day can look very different though, when the vessel is in port then it’s a different story because this is where the action mostly is with constant cargo operations, shifting, manoeuvring, inspections, services. Only if time allows do we get a chance to go ashore.


Can you tell us some highlights of your career?

One of the highlights of my career is when I took command as a Master of the vessel. It was the most unforgettable experience, particularly when experiencing so many challenges onboard which my team and I have overcome together.


What are your future aspirations?

I would really like the shipping industry to have true gender equality, where sexuality and gender would never be an issue to go onboard. As for myself, I will continue to work in this field, not only at sea but also on shore. I want to broaden my expertise and experience both at sea to shore and impart my knowledge to the future generations of seafarers.


What are some of the biggest challenges in your job and how do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge honestly is because of our gender; we have suffered with a lot of discrimination and harassment, whether it has been physical, emotional, mental, or sexual.

Even if you are already at the top of your rank, there are still some people who will prejudge you because you are a woman, rather than your capability to deliver the job that is required. I don’t consider things which I do not know as a form of weakness on my part but rather I always look at it as challenges, as long as I am striving and doing my best effort to do the right thing and to overcome it. When I am being challenged, I always use it as a positive experience as I believe you must always attract positive vibes to have a positive result.

There’s no harm in asking and seeking help if you don’t know, rather than always assuming that you know everything. Most importantly, I have a strong support from my family and loved ones who are always there to guide and lift me up to never give up. My motto is life is “Do not quit – when things go wrong, as they sometimes will, rest if you must but do not quit.”


What’s would be your message to women considering a career in the maritime industry?

My message to those considering a career in the maritime industry is that they must be prepared not just physically and intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually. Life at sea, is not about the money that’s coming to our pay check but the reality of working alone and being oceans apart from your loved ones.

Never use your gender as a form of excuse but instead to carry out your role as is expected of you. Also, always think what kind of legacy you are going to leave behind to your subordinates or the next generation to come in this industry.