Two Pilbara teenagers are embarking on the biggest journey of their lives as they prepare to spend six months at sea working aboard a Rio Tinto bulk-carrier vessel. 

Key points:

  • The Pilbara’s first two female cadets prepare for a six-month journey aboard a bulk-carrier vessel 
  • Globally, just 1.2 per cent of seafarers are women
  • The PPA marine cadetship program aims to increase female employment rates in the maritime industry

Jeri Ingleton and Katelyn Arnold, who both recently finished high school in Karratha, are the first female marine cadets recruited by the Pilbara Port Authority.

The training program was developed in 2018 to encourage locals to take up careers in the marine industry.

Pilbara Port Authority (PPA) CEO Roger Johnston said the misconception there were no seafaring jobs available in Australia was entirely untrue.

“There are definitely jobs there … so we’ve got to go back and change that perception and say, ‘Actually there’s a very good career opportunity for [locals] here’,” he said.

An aerial photo of a bulk carrier vessel being loaded at a port

Dampier Port on the Pilbara coast, 20 kilometres north-west of Karratha.(Supplied: Pilbara Port Authority )

Industry boosts female representation

According to the International Maritime Organisation, globally only 1.2 per cent of seafarers are women.

Seafarers include anyone working on international shipping vessels and bulk carriers, like those which can be seen exporting iron ore and minerals from Western Australia’s Pilbara region and other major ports across the country.

Since 2015, the number of women working in the maritime industry has increased by nearly 50 per cent, as the industry strives for equal representation.

The young Pilbara marine cadets will be setting off in early December alongside about 20 other seafarers, all of whom will be men.

18-year-old Jeri Ingleton said she wasn’t worried about being one of only two women onboard.

The voyage is a major career milestone for the cadets, who have completed their offshore training at a variety of locations around the state, including Broome and Perth.

Upon their return, the cadets will continue working towards obtaining a Maritime Operations Diploma, which will open new opportunities and offer career progression in the maritime industry.

Forging a career at sea

Marine cadet Katelyn Arnold said although she was nervous to be spending such a long time away from home, her family was very proud of her achievement.

“We just finished high school so it’s a bit intimidating but definitely very exciting,” she said.

A group of men and women wearing yellow and orange high vis and hard hats standing on a port in front of a crane

PPA staff Captain Arvind Kumar, Suraj Joshi, Jeri Ingleton, Roger Johnston, Katelyn Arnold and Tim McDougall at the Dampier Port.(Supplied: Pilbara Port Authority)

Total imports and exports across all PPA’s ports for the 2020/21 financial year was 724.7 million tonnes.

Mr Johnston said the Pilbara was home to the biggest bulk port operator on the planet.

“We’re very confident, we think that gives us the best opportunity to take on more cadets from both sides of the Pilbara.”

Jeri and Katelyn make history as they prepare for six-month stint on bulk-carrier
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