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The maritime industry needs more talented women!

International Women’s Day 2024 is the ideal time to highlight the fact that females are still underrepresented in the shipping industry, making up around just 29% of the workforce (IMO-WISTA) and only 2% of global crews.

If we want to create a fair, sustainable and successful industry for future generations this must change.

With that in mind Nor-Shipping is seizing the day to relaunch the popular ‘An Industry for All’ series of interviews, showcasing talented females and supporting the drive for greater equality of opportunity in the industry we love.

Over the next few months we aim to share positive stories of diversity and inclusion, shifting the spotlight to illuminate individuals who demonstrate that ambition, intellect and personal qualities, and not gender, are the key criteria for success.

And who better to kick-off our series than Kongsberg Maritime’s Jaquelyn Burton.

If you’d like to nominate someone as a future interview subject, please email (Glenn Løvberg, Head of Communication & Marketing at Nor-Shipping) We’d love to hear from you.

Now, over to you Jaquelyn…

What is your current role, and how long have you held it?

At Kongsberg Maritime I lead the KM creative design team, focusing on enhancing user experiences across KM’s product range. I’ve been in this role for the past three years, working alongside an exceptional team of designers with a broad range of specialties.

Additionally, I hold some board positions: I am the Chair of the Board of Directors of SAMS Norway, where I lead efforts to create a sustainable autonomous mobility systems export arena for our Norwegian cluster members.

I also serve on the board of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) Norway and I’m on the board of Captains Without Borders, focusing on providing opportunities to seafarers from challenging backgrounds.

Though wearing many different hats, I’m driven by a universal vision for a safer, sustainable, inclusive, human-centred, resilient maritime industry.

How did you get involved in the maritime industry?

My maritime journey began early. At 14, I joined the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps, learning about shipboard operations and seamanship. For university, I attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy, where I sailed as a cadet from 2005. I earned a Bachelor’s in Maritime Operations and Technology, with a focus on Leadership and Ethics, and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy Reserve, while receiving my Third Officer’s license in 2008.

My career at sea spanned various vessels, from grain ships to LNG FSRUs to car carriers, eventually earning my Unlimited Master Mariner license. An engine room fire on a car carrier in 2017 prompted me to reconsider my sea career, approaches to maritime safety, and what tools were available for seafarers like me at the time.

This experience led to an Executive MBA at the Quantic School of Business and Technology, which I completed in 2018 when I joined Kongsberg Maritime. I initially focused on automation and autonomous vessels before expanding my focus across our product lines.

Why should people consider a future within the maritime industry?

The maritime industry, carrying 90 percent of all goods, is pivotal to our modern existence and offers vast opportunities to improve the world—through sustainable shipping and economic opportunities connecting developing nations to broader labour markets and trade.

The industry’s diversity spans fisheries, aquaculture, offshore energy, maritime law, and more, offering numerous avenues to positively impact the future. It includes a wide variety of roles far beyond those working on the vessels and offshore installations; there are brilliant people in salvage, marine insurance, maritime finance, chartering, offshore energy production, port operations, vessel inspection, technical service, and much more. There are so many areas of opportunity!

Jaquelyn Burton, Head of Creative Design, Kongsberg Maritime

What key lessons have you learned, or what advice would you offer to others?

The key lesson is that there’s a place for everyone in maritime, despite sometimes feeling otherwise due to varying dynamics within the industry. At the same time, it has thousands of years of history and is constantly changing. Significant opportunities are arising from fuel and generational shifts to AI and advisory data systems; we must all have the courage to advocate for a resilient, human-centred, and sustainable future for the work in our industry to continue to support a global, and in many dimensions, diverse workforce that includes most of you reading this.

What are the industry’s key strengths and weaknesses, and how would you like it to evolve?

The maritime industry excels in operations and problem-solving. However, a big shift in thinking about the tools and technologies we use to solve those problems is underway to enhance operational safety and efficiency.

An analogy could be ordering a new car. Today, there is no way you would specify having a cassette tape player, right? No one regulates that that is the technology you must order to listen to music. But, in what may be a very controversial statement, in maritime, we have Radar.

It is a technology with many known limitations that is of a similar age. Why has it not been surpassed and replaced with new and different solutions? Could it be that it is because it is mandated equipment?

Technology and equipment themselves are not what is essential. What really matters is that the technology makes it easier – and possible for you to achieve your goals. You don’t NEED a Radar; what you NEED is a way to see where other vessels, objects, land, and navigational aids are in relation to yourself. It is a bonus if it can calculate when those items will be of significance to you and suggest an action or two to avoid collisions, allisions, and groundings.

I’d like us to go from specifying which technology to use to concentrating on the needs and goals that the technology must fulfil in our collaboration with it. Technologies go out of date, we should focus more on these technologies’ objectives, enabling innovation and the integration of advanced human-centred solutions.

What do you like best about your current role?

My incredible team and the opportunity to significantly improve life at sea by enhancing how users interact with our equipment stand out as the highlights of my role.

What are your professional ambitions for the next five to ten years?

I want to inspire our industry to do more for the people in it. There is an enormous potential to be unleashed for safer, smoother, increasingly transparent and fulfilling work to be done in the ocean space. Companies and governments aim to build a resilient shipping industry that can withstand challenges, while also gaining strategic advantages for regions and sectors that support sustainable development goals. My focus is on enhancing our work through how technology can be implemented with a human-centred approach that supports those aims and goals of the people who buy, use, install, and service it. I am a Ph.D. candidate in the global executive management program at ESCP Business School; I’m exploring the transition to Industry 5.0, focusing on creating a human-centred, resilient, and sustainable ocean and maritime industry. I hope to influence our sector to embrace human-machine teaming and advanced technologies, improving maritime safety and operational efficiency in the long-term.

Any final comments for our readers?

We should all be more curious about collaborative value-building activities during industry transitions. Please reflect not only on what technologies you are using, but also on what you are using them to accomplish, and then explore the solution landscape for a better, more straightforward, or more useful way to achieve it. Many value-amplifying partnerships need to be built; future-proofing our industry relies on collectively enhancing strategic value for this vital global sector.

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