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The global maritime sector transports over 90 per cent of world trade in terms of tonnage and around 70 per cent in value. Making all of this possible are over 50,000 merchant ships trading around the world, transporting every kind of cargo, including raw materials, the import/export of affordable food and manufactured goods.

The world’s shipping fleet is registered in over 150 countries and crewed by nearly 2 million seafarers, only 2% of which are women. Ships can often have seafarers from different nationalities and cultures on board. This inherently global nature of the international maritime sector makes diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) especially crucial, both on board ships and ashore.

ICS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Panel

The ICS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Panel was set up by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), as a platform for meaningful discussions and initiatives intended to provide a meaningful boost to the global maritime sector’s DE&I journey. The Panel addresses critical issues and approaches needed to ensure that the future of work in the maritime shipping sector is attractive, including for women and other groups vulnerable to discrimination, and that the sector is able to retain its best talent, including qualified seafarers.

DE&I Panel in Action

To inspire change and promote maritime opportunities, ICS – working alongside its Panel members and through its global network of shipowners and operators – initially developed a three-pillar framework to help promote inclusive employment in shipping. This comprises the ICS Diversity Tracker, the Maritime Diversity and Inclusion Charter and the Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit.


ICS Diversity Tracker

The Tracker sets baseline targets for improved corporate diversity and inclusion policies. It focuses on all aspects of DE&I, including women seafarers and beyond. While the first report of the Tracker revealed that 30% of companies employ women in board-level roles, and close to 60% of companies have female officers on board their ships, the most recent ICS- BIMCO Seafarer Workforce Report notes that less than 2% of seafarers are women.

ICS Maritime Diversity and Inclusion Charter

The Charter is a free tool which encourages shipping companies to annually monitor diversity and inclusion practices and to improve them where necessary to create opportunities for all, irrespective of gender, race, ethnic origin, nationality, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. Companies using the charter are graded explorer, bronze, silver or gold depending where they are in their DE&I journey.

ICS Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit for Shipping

The Toolkit has been developed to create awareness and inspire change in the strategies, policies and practices that will enable the global maritime sector to meet the needs of the diverse seafarer community, not only now, but also for future generations. It provides resources, strategies, and best practice to help organisations promote DE&I in the workplace. This includes tools, such as guides, training modules, checklists, and assessments, for organizations to evaluate their current DE&I levels, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies for future action.

ICS-sponsored initiatives

The ‘I Exist Too Forum 2023’ was convened by Gustavo Aguilar-Miranda, seeking to improve the visibility and rights of the LGBTIQ+ population in the global maritime sector. Gustavo’s project consisted of two streams, namely the “I Exist Too” conference in his native Panama, as well as complementary artistic expressions of the LGBTIQ+ population currently working within the sector, sharing narratives and experiences.

ICS sponsored the art exhibition underpinning this project and participated in the panel discussions. In 2024, the Brussels Conference on the Wellbeing of Seafarers recognised Gustavo’s tireless efforts, rewarding his project with a ‘Best new DE&I initiative award’.

Latest Initiative: Spotlighting and Inspiring Inclusion in Maritime

In 2024, the world celebrated International Women’s Day under the theme “Inspire Inclusion“. A new ICS campaign is drawing inspiration from this theme to pay tribute, not only to women and their value to the global maritime community (public and private sectors), but to celebrate cultural diversity more broadly, as a driving force for development in the sector, through real life inspiring stories.

To support the campaign, ICS will periodically publish original and authentic interviews, articles, independent commentary, social media surveys, reports and fireside chats; providing a global platform and audience:

  • For unique individuals from underrepresented groups in the maritime sector to effectively share their inspiring personal DE&I stories.
  • To promote DE&I Champions that are proactively driving impactful initiatives, with meaningful metrics, including to make the business case for DE&I.
  • To provide an intersection between meaningful words and tangible actions to support DE&I
  • To showcase initiatives actively supporting DE&I in maritime at national, regional and international levels.
  • To shine a light on shipping companies, big and small, which are paving the way for a more diverse global workforce in maritime.
  • To emphasise that DE&I is much more than a slogan in the global maritime sector and that it makes a real difference, as a driver for better collaboration and innovation.