After successful launch, WISTA Argentina springs into action to link women in shipping throughout Latin America, By James Brewer
WISTA Argentina has joined the network of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Associationwith a pledge to work towards strengthening the association’s representation throughout Latin America. Buoyed by a healthily supported launch event on May 16 2013 in Buenos Aires, WISTA leaders declared that the time was ripe to capitalise on the region’s huge import and export activity. As an example, trade between Latin America and the US alone in 2012 reached $843bn, and between Latin America and China $200bn.
The determination to reach out far beyond Argentina’s borders was underlined in an exclusive interview granted to www.allaboutshipping.co.uk by the country’s newly chosen WISTA president, Maria Belén Espiñeira.
Ms Espiñeira told us: “We are indeed very enthusiastic, and lots of expectations rest on WISTA Argentina. We are absolutely sure that the association will contribute to enriching the maritime industry and to benefiting its members.” She said that it was essential that countries in the neighbourhood moved forward in the WISTA sphere as well. The region was experiencing significant developments in international trade and shipping, “hence from the beginning we shall focus on encouraging other countries of the region. Argentina is determined to assist and collaborate in this regard. I am sure this will attract many women to the association and the shipping community.”
Maria Belén Espiñeria is a lawyer and partner with International Transport & Logistics (IT&L) Legal Consultants of Buenos Aires. She paid tribute to her WISTA Argentina vice-president Vilma Carlini, owner and director of international ship chandlers Navy & Co Argentina, whom she said had been rock-solidly reliable in the process of setting up WISTA Argentina. Navy & Co general manager Eduardo Quercia has been among those to the fore in support.
Sponsors have included Navy & Co, IT&L, Panamar Consultora Internacional Maritime, Administración General de Puertos, and the warehouse Tefasa (Técnicas Ferroviarias Argentinas).
Karin Orsel, president of WISTA International, commented: “It goes without saying that we are very proud on what Belén and her team have achieved. WISTA Argentina is our 33rd national WISTA association and the third in Latin America, joining Panama and Peru. We are very glad that Argentina, being the second largest country in South America, with its emerging market has its own WISTA chapter from now on.
“We truly hope that the founding of the association in Argentina will inspire other countries in South America to join us. We can only applaud the personal commitment that Belén and her team have shown and I am sure we will hear more from them in the near future, ” said Ms Orsel, who is chief executive of Netherlands-based Management Facilities Group.
In her interview with www.allaboutshipping.co.uk, Ms Espiñeira said that in Argentina the participation of women in the shipping industry and in its indirectly-related sectors, is not significant at present, “but it can be said that there is a sustained increment in the participation of women in central roles and managing positions.” While there are no formal statistics about the level of female involvement at senior level, “private research and polls verify that women’s participation is increasing.”
As to female entry into seafaring, Ms Espiñeira explained that the first time a group of women was admitted to the National Seamanship School was in 1978. At that time, they looked for the opportunity to become seafarers to perform administrative activities on board. The percentage of women at the seamanship school had never exceeded 15% of the total number of students. “Nevertheless it can be said that from the beginning their share of activity has been increasing and that they have never been prevented from playing their part at the school. Up to today, about 200 women have graduated from the National Seamanship School, in such skills as ocean navigation, inland navigation, fisheries, pilotage, deck officers and engineers.”
The launch event for the new body was at the Rudder Club in Buenos Aires and hosted by the leading journalist, Dr Luis Otero. Ms Espiñeira warmly welcomed guests and thanked the shipping community for their support and assistance.
In his capacity as a member of the Argentine Chamber of Shipping and vice-president of the Rudder Club, Gustavo Nordenstahl greeted the association. Chamber general manager Edward Rosenthal has also been prominent in his support. Welcome messages were transmitted by video from Katerina Stathopoulou, WISTA ExCo (executive committee) board member and contact person for the Americas; and from ExCo secretary Consuelo Rivero.
Ms Stathopoulou expressed her hopes that the new association would work to develop other associations in the region, and Ms Rivero invited members to attend the WISTA International annual conference from October 2-4 in Montreal.
A presentation by Antonio Zuidwijk, a leading specialist on ports and logistics in Latin America, covered the impact that mega-containerships would have on ports and terminals in the region, making a comparison with the European ports of Antwerp and Hamburg, and giving an update on the latest developments implemented in the neighbouring country by the Brazilian authorities.
WISTA member Ana Maria Brunet delivered a detailed presentation on the evolution, influence and participation of women in the maritime industry in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The event attracted much attention from the local maritime community. It was attended by representatives of private sector companies such as shipowners, shipbrokers, representatives of port terminals, freight forwarders and shippers; and the public sector. From the latter came personalities including Anibal Diaz, director of Ports and Waterways of the sub-secretariat of Ports and Waterways, and Juan Carlos Donato, chief of senior ministers of the sub-secretariat for Ports and Waterways, who promised to keep the association updated on the type of developments outlined by Mr Zuidwijk.
Ms Espiñeira said that the problem in Argentina was not purely one of how many women opted for a seafaring career. There were significant numbers of people leaving the sector, “which is really worrying.” This stemmed from the lack of information available about the benefits and opportunities of shipping as a career, and a lack of success in tackling the misconception that seafaring is a masculine activity (the male stereotype syndrome).
“Therefore … WISTA has a long way to go in every sense, ” said Ms Espiñeira. “That is why we are absolutely sure WISTA´s goals and mission play a fundamental role!”
Accordingly, she said, people should be aware of the goals of WISTA Argentina, which are aligned with those of the international movement:
• to be acknowledged as a professional and highly reputable maritime organisation aiming at improving levels of aptitude and know-how in the maritime sector
• to attract and retain highly qualified women for the industry
• to encourage those highly qualified women to join WISTA and share their experiences, knowledge and expertise
• to promote the development and success of members´ careers in the maritime industry
• to facilitate the exchange of contacts, information and experience among members
• to provide a forum for liaison with other institutions and organisations locally and worldwide
• to promote and facilitate the education and development of members, through the organisation of seminars, training courses, workshops and conferences for members of WISTA Argentina and non-members
• to support the study of topics relevant to the general interests of the local and international maritime Industry, such as anti-piracy campaigns, environmental issues, and safety
• to undertake commitments of a social and charitable nature.
This was, said WISTA Argentina vice-president Vilma Carlini, the start of a new era: “WISTA Argentina in action.”