Mother of one breaking barriers as a female ship captain

Mother of one breaking barriers as a female ship captain
The UMT RV Discovery, the ship commanded by Captain Norhaslinda Yunus

LANGKAWI - She is petite but 26-year-old Captain Norhaslinda Yunus harbours big ambitions in life.

Capt Norhaslinda, who has been navigating sea-going vessels from a young age, is one of the few slowly breaking the glass ceiling in the profession long dominated by men.

Capt Norhaslinda is the captain of UMT RV Discovery, a 300-tonne, 35m-long research vessel (RV) belonging to Universiti Malaysia Terengganu.

She has worked as a mariner overseas before joining the vessel in January.

Capt Norhaslinda said her passion in shipping and oceanography started right from the primary school.

"While at school, I went through a lot of exposure on career as a mariner as well as activities related to sea. That somehow influenced me to join the field," she said on the UMT RV Discovery's voyage from Kuala Terengganu to Langkawi during the university's first scientifc expedition in Straits of Melaka.

After obtaining her SPM qualification from Sekolah Menengah Agama Tangok, Bachok Kelantan, Capt Norhaslinda went to the Malaysian Maritime Academy in Malacca for her Diploma in Nautical Studies in 2008.

After completing her three-year-course, she was offered a job on a cargo ship in the Mexican Gulf as a Navigation Officer at the age of 22.

"I had to navigate the ship from one destination to another. Six months of sailing, followed by a two-month holiday. That's how I worked in the Mexican Gulf," she said.

After marrying in 2013, Capt Norhaslinda took a break from her job for a year. She returned to the sea as RV Discovery's captain in January 2015.

The mother of an 11-month-old-daughter admitted that being a woman helming a ship had its own challenges.

"It's typical of men to find it difficult to work with a female officer. One has to be smart enough when communicating with them," she said.

However, Capt Norhaslinda's spirit remains undaunted as she is a firm believer that women are as capable as men.

Her family, she said, gave her their full backing although no other members had followed in her footsteps.

"My parents were self-employed but they encouraged me all the way. So did my other family members," she said, calling on women to be brave enough to move ahead and have faith in their own abilities.

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