‘If you’re interested in marine engineering and have the opportunity to study – take it; don’t let your gender dictate your dream.’

That’s Michelle Marnapal’s advice to other Papua New Guinean women who want to follow her lead as a marine engineer in the maritime sector.

Michelle (pictured) is one of 26 PNG women who have been awarded Australia Awards Maritime Scholarships since 2018 through an innovative partnership with the private sector.

The scholarships for women involve study at PNG Maritime College and seatime and other practical training supported by private sector partners Pacific Towing, Steamships, Consort Shipping and China Navigation.

The partnership supports workforce development and gender equality in the maritime sector.

Awardees obtain the professional qualifications and practical experience needed for a career in the field.

Michelle and three fellow awardees are currently undertaking four months of international sea time aboard China Navigation’s MV Shansi, as part of their Officer of the Engine Room qualification.

The awardees’ time at sea – which observes strict COVID-19 protocols – is a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience in complex areas such as engine maintenance and repair.

Maritime awardees aboard MV Shansi

‘I am already learning a lot and looking forward to learning even more,’ Michelle says.

‘The professionalism and work ethic shared among the officers and crew is very inspiring and encouraging, especially for cadets such as myself.’

Safety is also a priority as the cadets learn safety drills and first aid skills.  There are also many opportunities for cross-cultural exchange.

‘The crew are all from different nationalities and it makes way for interesting conversations over meals and during breaks’, Michelle says.

With applications for Maritime Scholarships starting in 2022 open until 14 June, Michelle hopes other PNG women will follow her lead.

‘I encourage and urge them to apply.  As much as a maritime career is challenging, it’s also rewarding.’