Legal Council, Harren & Partner (Hamburg)
I am Sofia. I am with SAL Heavy Lift since 2016 and as part of the Harren and Partner Group since 2020 as legal council. In that role, I give accurate and timely counsel in a variety of legal topics: I draft and solidify agreements, contracts and other legal documents to ensure the company’s full legal rights. Furthermore, I draft and review long term maritime projects and EPC contracts and provide clarification on legal language or specifications to everyone in the organization.
Shipping for me is a family thing. I come from a long line of shipping so I would say its practically in my blood. But the main reason why I joined shipping was the diversity: each day is a challenge. The job never gets boring.
Compared to other sectors the maritime world is still a very male dominant world. But little by little there are more and more women interested in pursuing a career in shipping and making their way into the industry. In a very short period of time, I have seen a huge evolution and more women being interested in this industry. Of course, I come from the heavy lift and offshore sector which is a small niche compared to the container world which has seen this evolution much sooner.
I have been part of the shipping world since 2014 and when it comes to prejudices within this sector, I see a great evolution on this matter. My first time as a Project Coordinator I was asked by the Captain of the vessel, if the company had issues with hiring that they had to send the office secretary to the port. But with respect and grace and of course hard work the Captain recognized that I was actually the one organizing the whole operation. In the process, we ended up having a very good working relationship during the project. It also depends a lot on the region and area I have been in charged of. Europe, Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia and South America all show cultural difference with respect to the acceptance of women in the workplace. But the way I see it is that at the end its all about how you perceive things and respond to it. In my opinion it always come down to respect. With respect one can connect with different cultures and create good working relationships. Hence, I never saw my gender as an issue. Also, when you start a new job, one is young and naive, and there are certain challenges as a young women in shipping, but overcoming such challenges just gives you more perspective and makes you stronger. I also have to say I was very lucky to have wonderful teachers like my father, my uncle and Jaime who is a practically a second uncle. For them gender was never an issue and to the contrary they all put a lot of efforts in introducing me into shipping and sharing their love for the industry and the sea.
Summing up all above, I would recommend working in shipping because of the versatility of tasks. Each day is completely different. It is a very demanding industry but at the same time very diverse. Therefore, you never know what to expect. Day by day the cargoes grow in size and we are facing more and more exciting challenges. I work in the Heavy Lift and Projects sector which is a very small niche. Even though there are newcomers everyday, the majority does know each other so its really fun when we all meet up in exhibitions, conferences, events etc.
By closely working together, men and women can learn a lot from each other. However, it always depends more on the person as an individual rather than on gender. I have learned a lot from many men and I hope they have also learned a lot from me.