Odia girl becomes mariner

Kendrapara: She is a tender presence in all-pervasive male bastion. An Odia girl has broken into shipping sector which has mostly remained exclusive preserve of males.

Twenty-eight-year-old Bibhusita Das lays claim to fame for being the first Odia woman officer onboard a vessel.

Bibhusita, a marine engineer, who arrived in Paradip port recently with a coke carrying ship from Australia was felicitated by the Port trust.

Das was recruited by Shipping Corporation of India.

The publicity-shy woman has opted for onboard sailing along the rough and tough seawater almost throughout the year.

When Das, who hails from a family having no link with shipping or marine sector, joined her first vessel in 2012, her master mariner wasn't impressed. She developed sea sickness.

"The mariners on board thought that I have made a mistake to plunge into a rigorous profession. For being a woman, they felt that I may not withstand prolonged sailing and sea exposure. But I stuck to the task with tenacity and renewed vigor. I have proved them wrong," she said.

Women are equally capable of doing what men do on the vessel. They simply need exposure.Though girls are shying away from marine engineering, it's a challenging job that also befits fairer sex. However one needs to be gritty to cope with needs of the job, she said.

"Right from childhood days, I had developed fascination towards sea sailing. I loved reading stories on sea voyage and expeditions. I evinced keen interest in taking up career of marine engineering. My father Kurunakar Das, who retired from BSNL job last year, was very supportive. I had attained B Tech degree in marine engineering from a Bhubaneswar-based engineering institute (CV Raman)."

"I got the job of third engineer last year in Shipping Corporation of India, the country's largest shipping company. I opted for onboard sailing despite unwillingness from parents."

"My first onboard sailing was from Haldia to Vizag. I felt ill at ease midsea. I began vomiting. Alien environment got the better of me and I was down with sea sickness. My crew members who were all males took care of me. I felt better after an hour. Since then, I have got immense thrill through onboard sailing. I am enjoying the profession," she said.

"I have no family history in this profession, but my parents stood by me when I wanted to join a vessel. Till recently, it was unusual for a woman to join a ship. But Indian mindset is changing now," Das remarked with a pride.

"Initially, it was hard since I could not share my feelings with anyone. Often I am found out to be the lone woman crew. But that has changed, and now I feel at home while on vessels."

"The ship carrying high-grade coke from Australia that was berthed at Paradip port has a strength of 26 crew members. Incidentally, I am the only the female crew onboard."

Earlier, men officers were sceptical about women mariners' capabilities, but that has started changing now.

"It is a matter of pride that an Odia woman has made it to onboard sailing profession. No Odia woman had earlier joined this sector in the past. Shipping Corporation of India had opened the doors for onboard sailing jobs in 1998," Deputy Conservator, Paradip Port Trust, Gouri Prasad Biswal said.

Now more and more women are joining the sector in other parts of the country. Hopefully, more Odia girls would follow Das's suite, he said.