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The nurse who decided to go to sea

Women working at sea are a rarity. A woman captaining a merchant ship rarer still. So with today marking the Day of the Seafarer Maritime CEO leapt at the opportunity for a video interview onboard the 4,258 teu Luna Maersk as the ship prepared for a rainy transit from the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.

Berlin native Captain Beate Stelzer’s life story is extraordinary. Deciding back in 2007 at the age of 40 to quit her job as an intensive care nurse for a maritime career switch, Stelzer signed on with Hamburg Sud. Eleven years later with the German carrier now bought by Maersk, she became a captain.

“I always wanted to do another completely different job in my life. There are so many interesting jobs you can do; why only do one?” she said of her mid-life career switch.

Uncertainty about getting relieved or not makes some of the crew depressed or aggressive

To get more women into shipping Stelzer said during the special episode of the Maritime CEO Leader Series powered by Ocean Technologies Group that it is important prejudices are ditched about women in technical jobs. It’s important too, she said, to make the job more family friendly, for example with shorter contracts.

The majority of the episode was spent discussing the challenges of life at sea during the coronavirus.

“Uncertainty about getting relieved or not makes some of the crew depressed or aggressive,” Stelzer admitted, saying that it was vital that as captain she had more communication with her crew during these difficult times.

With no shore leave whatsoever for several months, Stelzer related how she saw the same people day in, day out – “the same faces, the same noises” – something she admitted has become boring.

The former nurse also addressed the medical challenge for seafarers during the coronavirus crisis with crew unable to go ashore for aid.

“Humanity is getting lost by this,” she warned.


  1. Interestingly MAERSK ships sail without a cent of cash on board! I can’t imagine something sadder.

    1. I am surprised at this ill-informed statement! In over 32 years with Maersk, I have yet to come across a ship where the cash with Master is nil! While it s true that we limit cash held onboard, we do not pay all wages in hard cash but end month wages are deposited in seafarers’ bank accounts in whichever country they have these accounts! Over the years, cash drawn onboard by crew has progressively reduced to a few thousand $.

      1. I am sure of your surprise. For managers at office, cash and wages have been increased in the same proportion.

  2. Great initiative to focus on someone who dare to seek new horizons at an age where most would be settled in their jobs, however the execution is quite weak. Too little information regarding how one would break into the industry and how to rise up the ranks working with people much younger.

    In addition, nothing is built upon her nursing experience within the industry, if there is anything she have done to help other medical officers to address health issues onboard, especially mental health.

    Lastly, “addressing the medical challenge “is not making a statement that does not help the situation; “Humanity is lost by this”. Would be really nice for Splash247 to expound on that.

    I hope more could be expanded on this fearless lady who could encourage others to seek a maritime career and succeed in it

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