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“Once you put on that white shirt, it’s the rank that speaks not your gender” – Maersk Line’s female captains


20130530_lisa-gaarslev_articleIt’s undeniable, Lise Gaarslev Hansen radiates authority and leadership. But on the other hand her softly spoken and at times quixotic nature seems like an unlikely pairing with one of the most covered jobs in the Maritime industry – Captain of the Morten Maersk, one of Maersk Line’s Triple E vessels.

Like her counterpart, for Pia Jensen Christensen, Captain of the Luna Maersk there is no doubt: a love of the seas is something you’re born with. Pia’s sense of adventure was something even her mother noticed at a young age while Lise’s pursuit of a maritime career started as a young girl when she would go sailing with her father and sisters. Both women climbed through the ranks working on Maersk Line ships for most of their careers, culminating in the ultimate honour and responsibility – a captain of a Maersk Line vessel.

When reflecting on her early days as a mariner, Lise never imagined that she would receive this level of success. “I just thought small. I didn’t have any grand plans – I just wanted to get on board, that was my goal. I never even thought becoming a Captain would be possible” says Lise modestly. Not only did she get on board, but she was supported by Maersk Line throughout her career and climbed the ranks culminating in the ultimate post as a Captain of one of Maersk Line’s renowned Triple E vessels.

At this stage of Lise’s career, the work of a captain is now second nature. “You don’t get nervous, the adrenaline kicks in and you remember your training. That’s important and it keeps you on your toes and you never forget the immense responsibility you have towards the ship, your crew and the cargo” says Lise.

“Once you put on that white shirt, it’s the rank that speaks not your gender”


Female captains are still in the minority within the industry. But according to both Lise, Pia and Zetta Gous-Conradie, Master on the Safmarine Kuramo, it’s the rank that speaks volumes, not gender. “In my experience a captain is a captain is a captain. There is no difference in how we get treated” says Zetta. Lise agrees and states that “once you put on that white shirt, there is a level of respect that you receive.”

‘While handing over the controls of the Luna Maersk to an Egyptian pilot in the Suez Canal, he suddenly handed me a cell phone and says ‘my wife wants to talk to you’. When I got on the phone his wife was full of praise saying ‘well done, we’re so proud of you!’ It’s nice to know that people are cheering for my success” says Pia.

A pursuit of passion

For Lise, working at sea is a pursuit of passion: “I couldn’t spend half my life at sea if I didn’t love it. You need to take pleasure in the small things; a beautiful sunset, a whale sighting, it’s being out in nature that I really love.”

Zetta agrees saying that “sitting in traffic to get to work would drive me crazy. I wouldn’t give up my job for any other job in the world. Well, maybe a chocolate-tester” says Zetta with a laugh.

*Luna Maersk image credits: Ron van de Velde for shipspotting.com