The pledge has been signed by major companies including Carnival UK, BP Shipping, the Port of London Authority, DP World, Associated British Ports and Peel Ports as well as trade bodies including British Marine, British Ports Association, UK Major Ports Group, Society of Maritime Industries, Maritime London, and the UK Chamber of Shipping.

Other signatories include the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Nautilus International, Seafarers UK, Solent LEP and Mersey Maritime.

The companies signing up to the pledge will now be engaged with the detailed development of the Women in Maritime Charter, which is being developed by a special maritime Taskforce and is due to be launched in the autumn of 2018.

David Dingle CBE, Chairman of Maritime UK, stated:

Today is truly a landmark moment for the UK maritime sector. Without a diverse workforce we will not be able to tackle the challenges we face – including innovating cutting-edge technology, such as that required to decarbonise shipping. A plurality of ideas and creative thinking is absolutely critical to the future success of UK maritime, one of Britain’s biggest industries...There is real determination to make progress, and to do so as an industry. Given the size of our sector, we have a real opportunity to affect significant change across the whole country.

The creation of the pledge in coming as a result from the establishment by Maritime UK of a Taskforce to address fairness, equality and inclusion within the maritime sector. The Taskforce brings together leaders from across the maritime sector to identify practical steps to increase the number of women in maritime, and crucially within senior roles across its shipping, ports, marine and business services industries.

The charter is expected to play a significant role in creating targets for each signatory company, helping improve the gender balance across the maritime industries, including shipping, ports, services, engineering and leisure marine.

All companies signing the pledge will be making clear their support for creating positive change within their respective organisations, and collectively, across the UK maritime sector.

The industry will produce a series of toolkits based upon best practice to support companies meeting the obligations they commit to under the Charter.

Natalie Desty, Director of Marine People, said:

We believe that recruitment has a crucial role to play in helping to create an industry where women are well represented and have equal opportunities for development. A diverse workforce and industry is necessary to remain competitive on the world stage and to attract the next generation of candidates. Plus, simply put, women make up 50% of the UK's population, so why not the maritime workforce?

Debbie Cavaldoro, Head of Strategy at Nautilus International, added:

Nautilus is working to support female maritime professionals and encourage more women to consider it as a career, but there is a long way to go. The first steps have been taken in admitting there is a problem, now we all need to work together to solve it.

Nick Goldsbrough, Director of Corporate Services at Shoreham Port, noted:

The maritime industry is historically male dominated so it is particularly important to address and promote the opportunities for women in the sector, as a catalyst for change. The maritime industry is missing out on the skills and value that women can bring to the sector. Additionally women will add a different perspective and significant expertise in a very traditional industry which is crying out for change.

Social perceptions even today lean to indicate that such jobs require skills more associated with men. Lack of encouragement by families and society, absence of relevant educators and of organizations, as well as the fear of bullying and sexual harassment, have been identified as the key factors impeding the stimulus for women to select a maritime career.

Several organizations, unions and companies have set the ground in the last decade for creating a greater awareness to people generally and sensitize specifically the male seafarers towards acceptance of women onboard.