On International Women in Maritime Day our CEO, Sarah West, urges more women to consider a career in maritime

18 May 2024

Sarah West, CEO, Harwich Haven Authority

The Chief Executive of Harwich Haven Authority (HHA) is urging more women to consider a career in the sector, as the industry celebrates International Day for Women in Maritime.

Nationally, only 17% of people working in the ports sector are women, with even fewer working at sea – something HHA CEO Sarah West is determined to change.

Sarah, a former naval officer, was the first woman to ever command a major warship before taking on senior roles within the ports industry.  She joined the HHA as CEO in January last year.

She said: “Maritime is such an incredible industry to be involved in, on the water and off it.

“I have enjoyed a fascinating career in maritime and would love more women to experience the same.

“At HHA, I feel we are bucking the trend, with half of our new apprentices being female, but we would like to break down any perceived barriers to more women joining the sector.”

As a Trust Port, Harwich Haven Authority is responsible for safety of navigation in 150 square miles of waters off the east coast of England – encompassing Harwich Harbour and the estuaries of the Rovers Stour and Orwell.

With five port operators within its jurisdiction, including the UK’s largest container terminal at Felixstowe, HHA is a key player in the UK’s logistics chain.

In 2023, HHA privately funded and completed a £130 million project last year to deepen the channel so the largest container vessels in operation can dock in the region.

Among those to join the HHA’s marine apprenticeship programme is Marine Apprentice Hollie McGarry, who got her first taste of a maritime career though a work experience placement.

Hollie said young women thinking of a career in the sector should ‘go for it’.

“It’s not a usual choice of career for many young women, but my friends and family are very proud of my achievement,” she said.

“If I was to give advice to other young women considering a career in the industry, I’d say if you are looking for a job that gives you lots of variety and you enjoy being hands on, then ‘go for it’.”

Sarah added: “It is brilliant to see women like Hollie passionate about maritime and excited to get into the sector as a career.

“Although the sector is male-dominated, it is a very supportive and close-knit industry.

“I want to help break down some of the perceived barriers women may imagine are in their way so more can experience a rewarding career in the sector.”