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For APM Terminals’ Patricia de Waal it’s a marriage made in… a container terminal

Ahead of the International Day for Women in Maritime (May 18), we bring you the story of one woman, speaking for the thousands of women who work for APM Terminals, contributing to global trade, and taking their rightful place in our workforce.

Patricia de Waal started work as a Straddle Carrier operator at the age of 20 with a high school diploma and regular driver’s licence, the rest she learned at our terminal in Rotterdam. Above all, she learned to pay attention and concentrate, because safety comes first.

Once she had enough experience, the cranes on the quay beckoned. But, unfortunately, due to back issues, she was no longer able to work as a barge crane operator. This was 2015, and APM Terminals was shifting to automated equipment, meaning that her valuable experience and that of her colleagues could be retained with new training, and the removal of physical strain.
Brain power

Now the computer loads and unloads the mega seagoing vessels, but Patricia and her colleagues still play an absolutely critical role. She starts and completes manoeuvres and removes the hold hatches which seal the hold for the long sea voyage. Though her work is done from behind a screen in an office environment, her responsibility for safety has not diminished one iota.

“I am and will always remain responsible. Together with a colleague on deck, with whom I keep in contact via walkie-talkie. There are times when containers don’t release and suddenly three of them are hanging in the crane at the same time. That is not the intention and so we work carefully to address the problem.”

In safe hands, male or female
Patricia, like many of the colleagues who began work with us more than 15 years ago, and still now in some cases, has adapted to working with predominantly male colleagues. “Honest, that’s what they are,” she says of her colleagues, both male and female.

“If you don’t do something right, you’ll hear about it immediately. That took a bit of getting used to at first, but I appreciate this straightforward approach. There is simply no room for deviation when it comes to safety.” What is changing though is the demographic, albeit slower than we would like. “I am not the only female here anymore, though we are still not 50-50,” she points out.

Marriage made in the terminal
Patricia loves her job, and it’s also the place where love found her, since she met her husband at APM Terminals. He also loads and unloads container ships, sometimes in a rain jacket on the quayside, sometimes beside his wife in the office.

Working the same shift on a five-week schedule means they can have time off together to enjoy holidays, shopping and day trips without the crowds. On the flip side, they’ve had to get used to sleeping to late afternoon on a night shift, and an unconventional eating schedule.

All things considered, would she encourage other women to do this work? “Certainly, it’s a lot of fun and you’re held in high regard by your co-workers. The turnover here is minimal, and there are no vacancies at the moment, but an open application is always welcome. That just shows your motivation. Just give it a try.”
Source: APM Terminals

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