First Hong Kong Woman Qualifies as Chief Engineer of Seagoing Vessels
Ms Joanna Kwok
Thanks Capt Chawla for his wonderful presentation on myself.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen
I am Joanna Kwok, I guess everyone here has known that by now. I am really honoured and overhelmed to be standing here to be representing Hong Kong female marine engineers. And I would like to take these few minutes to share my experiencec in the past years.
I reckon the first question most people want to ask me is : 'Why have I joined shipping?" Well to answer this question I would need to start with why have I studied mechanical engineering in the first place. Since I wa a kid, I like to ask how thing works and never like to sit in a place. Therefore, when I have graduated from high school, I have chosen to study mechanical engineering, which gives me chances to understand ho things work, as well as having some pratical workshop sessions so less boring than other subjects which mostly have classroom lessons. But till then, I have never thought of, or not even knowing there are still people sailing in Hong Kong.I thought that was a career option in the 60s. However, in the final year of my engineering course, HKSOA has organised a career talk in the college and there I came to know more about modern shipping life. I was rather confused what exactly I wanted to do after graduation. Since there were few other batch mates hoping to pursue a sailing career, so I have decide I should have a go too, since it's kind of the only job in the world which one is paid to travel around the world, even to the most remote corners of the earth. Despite being a person who have rather bad motion sickness ( I mean I would throw up even in a long bus ride or a local ferry ride to Macau), I simply decided I would just go for it. After all, one contract is just 6 months, either I like it or hate it, it's just a tiny portion of my life. And at your early 20s, honestly there's much nothing to lose, and so I have stepped on my flight to Iceland to join my first ship as a cadet. So it's simply coincidence and fearlessness for me to have joined shipping.
Next question you might wan t to ask, does your job requires a lot of phisical strenght and how have you overcome it? Yes , my job does reuires physical strength. But is that much of a difficulty for women? Not really. I truly feel it's not that much of an issue when we are working on a ship. since everything is team work when we are on a ship. Al the crew members are family members for each other. And really when a ship is out at the middle of nowhere, your fellow crew members are your only family, friend, or saviour, So when we are working as a team, it's more important to be able to give ideas rather than showing off your physical strenghts.
No probably you might want to di deeper: didn't I think of quitting in between and what have driven me to stay till now? I guess it would be rather fake if I tell you I have never think of quitting. Frankly speaking, being an ocan-going seafarer it's not easy. Obvious reasons are we are always away from our families, friends and probably more inportant these days - speedy internet(!), etc. In addition, being the only different national and gender makes the whole situationever tougher (especially when you are a Hong Kong national and your head office is based in Hong Kong and crew members think you are a spy and keeping a distance from you!) The situation seems becoming more challenging when your fellow crew members eat curry on a daily basis when you are not a spicy food eater. It sounds like there are so many reasons for me to quit. But I guess I somehow transformed all these negativities into positive energy: all these difficulties have made me much stronger, flexible and a mature person. Now I know I can deal with and manage different kind of nationals and genders generally and at work; I know I can be an independent person who can handle her ups and downs at works or in daily life; I know to kill my time if I am left on island without internet (!)
So what have driven me till now? I guess I would have to give most of the credits to my family, friends and company - Anglo Eastern. Without anyone of them I won't be able to go this far. My family, parents have been very open minded and supportive to me all these years, in spite of having to listen to some bad comments about my work such as there's no future, etc. in the beginning of my career. They were very supportive even when I was in my low lows, whrn I called home and cried for hours, complaining the hardships I faced at work. They weren't the parents who were simply proctetive to their daughter but rather let go and let me try. My real friends, who are so kind not asking when I am leaving Hong Kong again (since I get irritsted when hundreds of people are asking the same question), but they simply appear when I needed them. My company, which has been very receptive to female seafarers, when many other companies were not prepared to hire female. Anglo Eastern has given me the chance to prove (as in life at times all we need is just a chance). Moreover, Anglo Eastern has provided me with different kinds of trainings all these years, which definitly has moulded me to be a better engineer. I am very thankful to have my family, friends and company as my iron triangle to keep me going.
8 July 2019