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International Day for Women in Maritime, 18th May 2024


The Port of Dover is proud to support the IMO’s, International Day for Women in Maritime and this year’s theme is “Safe Horizons: Women Shaping the Future of Maritime Safety”.

It’s the UK’s busiest ferry port, alongside a cargo terminal, two cruise terminals and a marina, operational 24/7, 365 days a year, and safety in the daily operations is paramount.

To celebrate this important day, and to raise awareness of the importance of women in the maritime industry, we’d like to introduce you to 4 of the very important women who work at the port.

Natalie, Linda, Fran and Tina work in pivotal roles across the business, ensuring operations run seamlessly without issue, but also pursuing their careers with passion and dedication.

Natalie McKernon – Port Hydrographer

“I started work at the Port of Dover in August 2018, where I acted as a hydrographic surveyor on a student placement, which ended in August 2019. I then went back to Cardiff University to complete my final year and after completion of my degree, I rejoined the Port in July 2020 as a Port Hydrographer.

I have always been fascinated by the sea and so chose to study a marine subject at university. Whilst on the degree programme. It affirmed my interest in the Maritime environment, and I love my career working at the Port of Dover.

My primary job function is to carry out hydrographic surveys which involves mapping the seabed to visualise the underwater topography and identifying areas within the Port that may require dredging. Surveying is a critical function of the Port as it ensures the safety of navigation for all stakeholders e.g. Ferries, Cruise, Cargo, Leisure and Port vessels.

As part of the Marine team, safety is at the core of our operations and is very important.

If I could give one piece of advice, it would be that working in the maritime industry is very dynamic, no two days are ever the same – although this may be mentally and physically challenging, it is ultimately a rewarding choice of occupation.”

Linda Visser – Tug Master

“In 2003 I went to a seafarer’s school in the Netherlands after which I gained my Bachelor of Science degree in 2007, in Energy Technic and Steam and Gas Turbines.

I did my cadetship during this time at P&O Nedlloyd on board containerships as an engine room and deck cadet, which involved 365 days at sea in 2005 and 2006. In 2007 I started my working career as a Maritime Officer on board the P&O Nedlloyd Mercator, going mainly from Europe to the Far East and back. In the years following, I have been on cruise ships and ferries, joining Dover Harbour Board in 2019 as a Tug Mate and progressing into the position of Tug Master in 2020.

The highlight of my sea-going career was without a doubt meeting my other half, in 2010.

I joined the marine industry due to family ties to the sea, my dad has been in the Merchant Navy and my grandfather was a fisherman, as well as several uncles and cousins.

I’m one of the Tug Masters for Dover Harbour Board and this role entails driving the tugboats, as well as being responsible for managing the safe operation on board during day-to-day operations, involving towage of vessels in bad weather and during ‘normal port towage operations’.

Safety is the most important aspect of our job. We as Tug Masters and crew, have a practical and hands-on job, therefore things could potentially go wrong very quickly. Luckily there is a great team of Dover pilots, VTS officers and PEC holders working within the port and together we do our utmost best to minimise the safety risks involved in towing operations and make safety our number 1 priority.

My recommendation for working in the maritime industry would be to understand the commitment required to achieve your final goal as there are personal sacrifices you will need to make. But the benefit of joining the industry is that you’ll meet a wide pool of funny and honest people, and some challenging characters too, but this creates resilience for life in the ‘normal’ world.”

Fran Cleeve – Duty Harbour Master/Pilot

“Having started my cadetship at 22, I have spent most of my time on cruise ships and ferries. For the past 5 years, I have been a Pilot at the port of Dover. We have a variety of vessels from 320m cruise ships to refrigerated container ships and small coasters. It is a challenging port due to the tidal currents which can rip through the entrances at up to 4 knots. A lot of teamwork is involved in making each entry or departure safe and successful, with launch Coxswains, tug Masters, VTS, mooring teams and ship crews all playing a vital part.

I had just passed a university course in Anthropology and was working in a museum in London when I saw an advert for a sponsored cadetship for Holland America Line. Previously as a kid I had sailed a lot with the family and from this, I have a taste for being on the sea.

Maybe the stars aligned (plus I was running out of money), anyway I bit the bullet and headed to sea with dreams of seeing interesting places and learning the skills required to navigate vessels around the world.

I’m a Duty Harbour Master and Pilot at the Port of Dover. The role entails the planning and execution of commercial shipping movements as well as ensuring the safety of all aspects of marine operations. The job is varied and interesting and involves meeting and working with people from different cultures and backgrounds. There is nothing more rewarding than stepping off a ship, which you have helped to safely bring alongside!

Safety is very important and we always look to prevent incidents and if they do happen, learn from them to prevent them happening again. You will never entirely remove risk, but there is a lot that can be done to make the job as safe as possible.

Working in the maritime industry, I’d advise keeping an open mind and never give up. There will be challenges, for example, long periods away from home and difficult situations you may struggle to overcome, but as with all careers, the end goal is to achieve the best you can and enjoy it at the same time. The maritime industry offers many opportunities for this.”

Tina Swan – Marina & Boatyard Apprentice

“I’ve worked at the Port of Dover for 5 years, mainly within the cruise and cargo businesses where I was a mooring hand for both businesses, as well as many other jobs within the port.

Working in the maritime industry provides the opportunity to work in a unique and ever-changing environment, and working in the marina and boatyard is an enjoyable, exciting experience not offered by any other career.

In my current role, I am part of a small team. We lift boats with a 50-ton hoist out of the water, jet wash off the bottom of the vessels then put them down on tripods or in cradles. I also drive a tractor to move the vessels around the yard and put them into position for work to be carried out on them.

Safety is always our number one priority within the boatyard. We are always vigilant not to do anything that we deem unsafe, for example, we don’t lift a vessel if it’s not safe to do so.

For anyone thinking about joining a career in maritime, my advice would be, don’t be put off by the weather! The work is all varied and it can be very rewarding.”

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