Meet Mihlanda Curameng from Maddela, Quirino in the Philippines. Mihlanda graduated from the Philippine College of Science and Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation and now holds a Chief Mate License for working on vessels of unlimited tonnage. Mihlanda is currently sailing as a dynamic positioning operator, and we were lucky to catch up with her to discuss her experience working on ships over the past 8 years:
Mihlanda, what inspired you to work on the water?
“My parents told me that even when I was very young I loved the water. My love of being on the water has never faded and this joy inspired me to pursue a career at sea. I also wanted to travel the globe, seeing different cultures and meeting new people.”
What has been the most memorable experience during your career so far?
“I treasure every experience I have at sea, especially those times when my life is at stake. The most memorable moments have been during attacks by pirates. I have experienced this twice in my career, with a close encounter a third time.”
Wow, what were those experiences like for you?
“It first happened when I was a cadet in Chittagong, Bangladesh. We were approaching an anchorage area in a place that is know for pirates/thieves. After securing the anchor, I was assigned to the pirate watch on the stern. I was on the second deck and the AB was below me on the first deck. After 5 minutes, he screamed “PIRATES ONBOARD!” He was quick to lock up the main deck door before the pirates could enter. There were a handful of pirates, armed with machetes, and their boat had approached us unlit, so neither the AB nor I could see them when they approached.
I went to the bridge immediately and locked down all the doors. The crew had drilled for this kind of situation, so we were able to lock up the accommodations quickly to keep the pirates from taking over the ship. They took what they could grab on deck, including the garbage bin with our garbage inside it.
The second attack was almost the same situation, but there were 18 pirates that came after us. We successfully locked the accommodations down before any of them could make it inside. They took our mooring lines and a few other things on deck they could easily grab.
The third time was thankfully just a close encounter that I experienced in the Indian Ocean, close to the Somali coast, and was during my watch in the morning. About 6 miles away, I observed a suspicious target. I called the Captain and the armed guards onboard were alerted. The target was heading straight for us at a fast speed. The Captain gave orders to bring the vessels speed up to full ahead, and fortunately, we were able to outrun the target.”
If working on the water is a long-term career for you, what motivates you to continue with this career path?
“My love for the water is always the thing that motivates me. As a woman, a long-term career at sea is a bit challenging. At some point in your life you may want to start a family and this can really affect your career path.”
What challenges have you faced in your career?
“In my experience, the main challenge in this male-dominated environment has been gender discrimination. When I was starting out, the hardest part for me was to win the trust of my colleagues. The trust was earned when I proved on deck that I can do what they can, despite the fact that I am half of their physical strength and size. Working at sea is not just about how strong you are physically, but how strong you are as a person in all aspects.”
What do you think can be done by your industry to encourage more women to pursue similar careers?
“The amount of women seafarers is growing thanks to the maritime industry improving the working environments onboard. Rules and regulations are also getting better. I encourage the women out there to join this industry because this is not a man’s world anymore, this is a world for anyone who is up to challenges and likes to experience a different kind of life and career. Good wages, opportunities to travel, and career development are just a few of the reasons why you should be here. In the Maritime Industry, we all matter.”
Thank you, Mihlanda, for sharing your inspiring career with us! We admire your courage! Stay safe out there!