Star Ferry’s first female deckhand generated some excitement on the Wan Chai-Tsim Sha Tsui route today – but Star Ferry says she was in fact a journalist writing a “sailor for a day” magazine feature (photo: George Russell)

Passengers on a Star Ferry were treated to a historical moment at lunchtime today, with the first ever female deckhand joining the crew – but enquiries to Star Ferry revealed the gender breakthrough was, in fact, a publicity stunt, with the young woman working as a sailor for a day for a magazine feature.

Passenger George Russell snapped a picture of the Twinkling Star deckhand who was, he said, surrounded by photographers. The woman was operating the gangplank controls, with no immediate supervision, although Russell says a Star Ferry employee was overseeing.

Male deckhands have run the controls of the Twinkling Star  since its launch in 1964: that changed today, if only for a few hours (photo: George Russell)

The excitement generated by a female deckhand highlights just how male-dominated the 133-year-old ferry service remains, with the company confirming it has no female deckhands and, according to a spokeswoman, just “one or two” women out of around 10 inspector-grade positions.

“I think it’s most likely men will keep doing the job,” she told Transit Jam.

Asked why the deck work was male-dominated, the spokeswoman guessed that perhaps the early mornings did not suit women – and while she was half-joking, the spokeswoman hinted that the job might be too physically demanding for women.

But as Russell pointed out, female deckhands and crew are common on ferry services in the US, Canada and Australia. Indeed, one ferry service in Australia recently celebrated its first all-female crew – something Star Ferry says is a long way off for its cross-harbour routes.

According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation, women only account for 2% of the world’s maritime workforce, but ferries and cruise ships have a higher ratio of women seafarers, globally.





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