|Soldiers open fire on board the guided-missile destroyer Haikou during an international maritime exercise. [For China Daily/Shao Longfei]
China has offered 3,600 places to women at maritime colleges since 2016 in an effort to boost gender parity on ships, the Ministry of Transport said on Tuesday.
The country has been making consistent efforts in educating and training female seafarers and is dedicated to improving gender equality in employment, said Cao Desheng, director of the maritime affairs bureau of the ministry.
According to the 2018 China Seafarer Development Report issued by the bureau, the number of female captains, officers and general seafarers is 239,000, accounting for over 15 percent of the country's total maritime staff.
The Day of the Seafarer, established by the International Maritime Organization and celebrated on Tuesday, is themed "I am on board with gender equality" this year. Cao said this year's focus stressed the importance of the value of women in the maritime field.
"Due to the labor intensive work on board, women had long been rejected for maritime jobs, especially the long-distance seagoing trips. But the country has been exploring and promoting gender equality on board since the founding of New China," Cao said. "The development in modern marine technology and automation systems have greatly reduced the workload and improved their living environment, which provided more opportunities for more women to seek their careers onboard."
A large number of female seafarers work on cruise ships and river vessels as attendants. Some are employed as chief officers on government ships operated by the bureau.
China had nearly 1.58 million registered seafarers at the end of last year, the largest number in the world, according to the bureau's report. The figure reflected a 6.2 percent year-on-year increase.
Shipping has played a significant role in China's economic development, responsible for over 90 percent of the country's foreign trade. Without qualified seafarers, shipping — the engine of global trade — could not function, Cao said.
"The average age of an international seafarer is 36 years old, with the coastal and inland river mariners being 43 and 46, respectively," he said, adding that the country should take more steps to make seafaring more attractive to young people.
(Source: China Daily)