Third engineer and watchkeeper Shannon Gray had no family at sea, but grew up working with engines at home from an early age. Eventually she thought, why not work with the biggest engine there is? She says not being easily offended is among the robust personality traits needed to counter gender stereotypes.
What is a typical day in your job?
A typical day would be doing rounds of the machinery spaces to make sure everything is in a good running order. I can also be in the control room monitoring the systems from the control panels and assisting the Second Engineer with any maintenance required.
Why did you choose a career at sea?
I have no personal or family connections. I'm the first person from my family to go to sea. I grew up working with engines from quads to cars to trucks with my father and grandfather. I found my career at sea by chance, and I thought why not work with the biggest engines there are!
I studied mechanical engineering at City of Glasgow College so I could try and get into the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an aircraft technician, but I saw the nautical side when I was studying and decided to take a chance on the merchant navy instead of the RAF.
Tell us some of your career highlights so far – and challenges
One of my highlights is being part of a newbuild project for Saga cruises. I was part of the process in the yard, during the sea trials and bringing the new ship into service. I'm glad I get to do it again with Saga's second newbuild the Spirit of Adventure.
There is always going to be challenges but the most common one [facing female seafarers] is a lack of familiarity. A lot of [male] seafarers often haven't sailed with women, as we are still relatively new to the industry and sometimes they don't know how to act around us; they may possibly be out of their comfort zone or it's something new to them.
How I deal with them is to not get offended by it and just let them do their thing and just try and build a working relationship. Every person is different.
One of my highlights is being part of a newbuild project for Saga cruises. I was part of the process in the yard, during the sea trials and bringing the new ship into service Shannon Gray, third engineer
How can women be made to feel welcome and retained in a career at sea?
Just treat us the same as everyone else.
What are the best things about your job?
Working with people of different cultures. Being able to work on machinery, taking it apart and fixing it.
Would you recommend seafaring as a career?
Yes I would. I'm hoping in the future to gain my chief engineers licence and hopefully sail as a chief engineer. If I were to go ashore, I would hope to maybe be a surveyor or an examiner.