Meet Julie Pedersen, Motorman Apprentice on board CSV Normand Samson

Julie grew up in a family of fishermen and developed a passion for all things nautical from spending countless hours out on the open sea. When she was 16 years old, she moved to Stavanger to attend the School Ship Gann, where she discovered different career opportunities in the maritime industry, which led her to start as a motorman apprentice at Solstad.

Julie is 20 years old and from a place called Myre in the North of Norway, well-known for its fisheries. Growing up at Myre means that she has been born and bred by the sea. Her father owns a fishing boat, and almost all the men in her family work in the fishing industry.

“From my earliest memories as a little girl, I spent countless hours out on the open sea together with my dad and the other fishermen in my family. This up-close exposure to the fishing industry sparked a deep passion within me for all things nautical. I always thought that I wanted to pursue a career within the maritime industry,” Julie tells.

When Julie was 16 years old, she moved to Stavanger to start school at the School Ship Gann. Her parents were a bit hesitant at first because it involved moving to the other side of the country at a young age. However, they quickly learned that it was a very safe place for a young adult to learn and develop under secure conditions.  

“When I first learned about the School Ship Gann, I was curious and wanted to give it a try. It turned out to be an amazing experience for me. I loved to live and learn on board the ship and discovered different career opportunities I didn’t even know existed. Prior to my time at the ship, my knowledge about maritime careers had been limited to the fishing industry, which I knew from my family and childhood,” she explains.

When Julie was a student at the School Ship Gann, they were approximately 100 boys and 15 girls enrolled. Luckily, the number of girls increased during her time at the school, which she describes as a very good sign for the maritime industry.

On board the ship, every student had their own cabin with their own bathroom. During breakfast and lunch, the students had to help out in the kitchen, while dinner was served by chefs working on the ship. Outside of class, they had plenty of opportunities to try out different tasks and explore the ship, and they were also able to stand watch both on the bridge and in the engine room. During her second year at school, Julie even got to do maintenance work onboard. Prior to her experience on board the ship, she always thought that she wanted to work on the bridge. It was therefore a surprise that she enjoyed the maintenance work to the extent that she ended up as a motorman apprentice a few years later.

“I didn’t know about all the opportunities to work in the offshore industry and on offshore vessels before I started at Gann. Solstad was one of the very first shipowners I learned about from my teachers and fellow students. It sounded like a really inclusive and safe space to start my career. In the beginning, I was actually a bit interested in working on cruise ships, but it turned out they have much longer shifts compared to the offshore industry, so that was an easy choice for me in the end,” she tells.

During the summer of 2021, Julie started her first year as a motorman apprentice at Solstad on the CSV Normand Superior in the North Sea. She is now in her second year, working at the CSV Normand Samson, currently located in South America. Julie takes advantage of the nice weather and sometimes spends her lunch breaks on deck working on her tan. She also admits that she loves traveling back and forth from her shifts offshore as she is sometimes able to experience other cities as well.

“On my first trip to South America to work on the Normand Samson, we had a layover in New York. The crew went out for dinner in the city and we had a really great time,” she tells.


A young girl in a male-dominated industry

Julie explains that there are six women in total, four of whom work in catering, onboard the Normand Samson. As luck would have it, her fellow apprentice is also a close friend from school, which makes her workdays even more fun.

“Usually, motorman apprentices start the day by doing a so-called motorman round. In addition, we check maintenance systems to see if there is anything that needs to be done, which can include ensuring that some pumps are in order, changing filters, overhaul separators, and so on. I get help from the engineers if the tasks are too big for me to handle myself,” she explains.

Julie’s workdays are quite varied, with some being extremely busy and others more relaxed.

“Everyone is very good at teaching, and there is always room to go talk to someone in the crew if you have a question or need help. Due to my young age, I probably must prove myself a little more, but they allow me to try and fail, to some degree of course, which I learn a lot from,” she tells.

Julie experiences that young people, particularly girls, may be hesitant to pursue careers in the maritime industry.

“If you are interested in the maritime industry; go for it. Some are reluctant to give it a try due to homesickness and long shifts, but my advice is that there is always a solution if you really want to work in the industry. For example, working on a ferry has usually much shorter shifts, and you can stay close to home if you aren’t interested in traveling to other countries. There are endless possibilities in this industry,” she reflects.

Initially, Julie had reservations about joining the industry, primarily because of its male-dominated nature. However, she has learned that standing up for oneself and demonstrating competence regardless of age or gender earns respect from colleagues.

“In my experience, you will meet people who respect you for both your gender and age,” Julie says.

Diversity and women in shipping

When describing the culture in Solstad, Julie chose the word “diversity”. Onboard Normand Samson, the crew is diverse with people from many different nationalities. Despite the presence of several nationalities on board the ships, it is no secret that there is a need for more women offshore and in the maritime industry in general. Julie explains that her impression is that many women have prejudices against the industry for various reasons, and although they are interested, they are afraid to try due to these biases. For example, it is common for many to believe that women get paid less than men.

“Earlier this year, I attended a women’s conference organized by the Seafarer’s Union. This was the first year the conference was held since the pandemic, and there were many participants. We were not just women; several male politicians and men within the maritime industry also attended. However, the majority were women,” she tells.

The focus of the conference was on reporting harassment and bullying in the industry, and the participants had the opportunity to sit in groups and discuss these topics with other women from the same industry. The lectures had plenty of room for openness, and they were encouraged to raise their hands to add their own experiences and opinions.

“How can we make it more accommodating for women to work in the maritime industry? Questions about maternity leave and pay were frequently discussed. It was great to talk to like-minded people and those who come from similar workplaces,” she says.

“We also have our own Facebook group for women at sea, where relevant information is posted, and we can chat with each other. I was not aware of this group before attending the conference. I only knew about the girls I went to School Ship Gann with, but now I suddenly have a much larger network, and I am incredibly grateful for that,” Julie concludes.