Interview by : Magdy Sadek
Reshma Nilofer Naha MNI is India, first and Only Woman Maritime Pilot in India in Kolkata Port Trust
Reshma in the bigging her journey sailed for 2 years with the Maersk container fleet after graduating and obtained BE( Marine ) Tech paa=ssed out from Bit Ranchi. Mersa with distinction and joined in Trainee pilot in 2011 pilot ship in and out of Kolkata, Holdio ports also Budge Budge oil terminals, Diamond Harbour and Sagar Archorges.
She is proud to receive the Highest Civilian Award for women in India ” Nari Shakti Purrskar ” from the President of India for the Year 2019 and on 8 March 2019 she met with the Honorable President and the Prime Minister also She identified and chosen by the Ministry of Women and Child Development
eBlueeconomy” in an exclusive interview with Reshma Nilfer Nanha MNI with many Questions marks and more exclamations
In the beginning, how did the dream start with you?
I never dreamt of being in this industry, leave alone become a Pilot. It happened organically. I wanted to get into an offbeat career and that lead me here. I got myself into a fully sponsored program with a job guarantee with the then A.P. Moller – Maersk, thereby reducing my education-related financial burden for my parents. It started there and I am glad and grateful for the opportunity
But did you dream of working in the sea? Or what was a childhood dream?
My dream as a child was to become a doctor. Eventually, upon growing up, I realized there was too much competition among the top performers for medicine. I did not want to be in a rat race-like situation and thus the lookout for an offbeat career
Did you find it difficult for the family or society to achieve your dream and break into the male community?
Family, NO WAY! My family has been and continues to remain my biggest support and strength through whatever decisions I’ve made thus far. They allowed me the independence to choose whatever I chose for a profession. But a majority of our society was and continues to be one that judges, stereotypes, and puts down the womenkind. People are quick to tell women what they can, must, and should do and what they cannot and should not do. And then there are hypocrites and pseudo feminists who say something but are something else in reality.
How did you start fulfilling this dream?
I worked hard. Gave it my best effort. The rest just followed. Had to happen. It took a lot of patience and perseverance to gain acceptance. But today I am in a good place and ever grateful to my mentors.
How do you see the work of women at sea? Are there obstacles or difficulties?
Acceptance is still hard to come by. What I faced 10 years back is still a challenge for a young girl entering the industry. This is because the industry still has a meager minority of women. We need to get more of my kind for everyone to get used to the idea of working with female colleagues at sea. It is a process. And for the women, it could be hard to be constantly under pressure to outperform and prove themselves worthy of being in the team and that they can perform just like anyone else. But us women at sea are made of steel, we are strong and ready for these everyday challenges and many of us are acing it
Is there a demand for Indian women to work in the sea? Is there anyone who encourages this?
There are a lot of companies today who have warmed up to the idea and some are VERY encouraging for hiring women. But that is still a small number. We need more companies to give green to our lady cadets and officers. That apart it continues to be a task to get our girls onboard. More and more girls are getting inspired and empowered to get here.
I am part of groups and forums which encourage women and girls. Like WISTA (Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association), IWSF (International Women Seafarers Foundation) and Women Offshore, Sea Sisters, etc. Each of them does a great job in working for our kind in the industry. Right from mentoring to offering help at times of need and promoting gender equity in policies and company procedures etc.
Did you encounter difficulties or dangerous situations while working at sea? What are your role and your job on the ship?
No dangerous situations at sea. Difficulties included loneliness at times, some co-workers took time to accept me as part of the team. These went away eventually as I got used to sea life and they got used to having me around.
Pilots are navigational experts and offer their local knowledge and expertise to the Master/Captain of the ships when ships call the port. So when ships enter port limits, there are many more parameters to consider and handle than at sea. This local knowledge is what we pilots are experts at. We board ships, become an external addition to the bridge team and help in conduction safe navigation and berthing/unberthing the ship in that particular port. So port installations, local weather, tides in that particular port, ship handling skills specific to this port and alignment, contingency action to ensure avoidance or minimizing eventualities, etc are some of our skills.