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Fuel a more sustainable future

Port of Tanjung Pelepas gender balance Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia is breaking the stereotypes to encourage more women to pursue a career in the port logistics industry.

Port logistics has traditionally been perceived as male-dominated industry. The usual perception of the jobs as consisting of “hard labour” has led to the whole sector being considered as a workplace that is not suitable for women. And if there were women working in the industry, they were typically associated with departments such as finance, administration, legal or customer relations, while operations were “reserved” for men.

Negative consequences of such stereotypical approach have impacted the ability of women to realise their career ambitions in the port logistics industry and International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been undertaking efforts to promote gender equality and encourage women in the sector. In accordance with these, Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) has actively engaged in helping the industry move forward and in line with twenty-first century expectations for equal employment opportunities.

Marco Neelsen, PTP’s Chief Executive Officer, believes that gender equality and diversity are crucial to continued success as Asia-Pacific’s prime transhipment and free zone business hub. Through various initiatives, PTP has focused on exploring opportunities to increase the participation of women in both operational and leadership positions.

“Apart from being a melting pot of employees from all backgrounds, including different ethnicities and nationalities, the female talents at PTP are a perfect example of how women continuously challenge the boundaries by not only working at the desk, but also being actively involved in operations”, shares Marco Neelsen. “Since its inception in 2000, PTP has always been at the forefront of progressiveness and inclusivity by diversifying the leadership and investing in development programmes and on the job experience to accelerate career progression.”

To deliver on its ambition, PTP has actively worked on various talent enrichment initiatives via academia collaboration with Young Engineer Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP) and Port Operational Planning Apprenticeship Programme (POPA). Through these collaborations, participating young talents, many of them females, are trained and exposed to the complex job dynamics in PTP and learn how to build leadership skills. This, in turn will equip them to become better, all-rounded talents in the future and subsequently supplement the port industry with a young graduate talent pool that meets the requirements in the long run.

PTP has also actively been involved in industry collaborations with various organizations for technical certification training and other leadership development programmes, such as Talent Exchange Program and Female Terminal Equipment Operator Fast Track Up-Skilling Program. As part of the latter, selected female operations staff with high potential were enrolled to a specialised training programme that will catapult their careers from prime mover drivers to Quay Crane Clerks, RTG Operators to Quay Crane Operators.

In 2021, in conjunction with the International Women's Day celebration, PTP successfully unveiled a new fleet of pink prime movers and launched a special recruitment program called ‘PTP Female Employee Referral Programme’ (FERF). The unveiling of PTP’s new fleet of pink prime movers did not only represent PTP’s commitment to champion female recruitment initiatives, but most importantly to acknowledge and celebrate the progress and excellence the female workforce has contributed to the growth and the sustainability of PTP.

The aim of the Female Employee Referral Programme, on the other hand, is to entice more female talent in Malaysia to join PTP’s workforce. Under the scheme, a special monetary incentive is offered to all PTP employees who introduce potential female candidates to the company, and which result in the successful placement of an applicant.

PTP also understands that bringing talents to work or focusing on upskilling of workforce means nothing, if it fails to provide these talents with the best and conducive work environment. With that in mind, various initiatives and facilities upgrade projects have also been executed, including opening of designated rest areas for female staff only and building female prayer’s rooms, as well as female toilet facilities at the wharf area – small practical things that make a big difference.

Periodic engagement sessions or Women Focus Group forum are also scheduled to ensure that female employees are able to channel ideas, comments or grievances to the management to make their jobs more comfortable. This focus group builds on the existing PTP policies and development opportunities to initiate programmes that contribute to the inclusive and diverse environment in PTP.

Special working arrangements are also in place for female employees working in the terminal. For example, during pregnancy a female terminal equipment operator is given exemption to operate her equipment and will be temporarily transferred to other light-duty responsibilities, such as training other new female recruits.

Today, PTP is reaping the fruit of its efforts to increase participation and contribution of women in the workplace. At present, PTP’s female workforce represents 7% or around 393 workers, in both management and non-management positions. Out of this, 266 are actively working in the areas of operations, engineering, safety and security.

The sight of female employees operating terminal trucks or cranes is now common in PTP. From the longest serving employee, to the first female marine harbour pilot in Malaysia, PTP’s female work force stands proud and ready to challenge the perception that port industry belongs to men only.

Siti Sukma Drahman, 28 is one of the many females Prime Mover drivers employed by PTP. For her, having been able to work at one of the busiest ports in the world is like a dream come true.

“Growing up, I have always been attracted to all kinds of adventurous activities, as I see such challenges as a motivation to push myself towards betterment. I am very grateful to PTP because even though I never learnt how and never operated any heavy vehicle in my life before, I was still given the chance to prove myself. I was even more surprised when I was also told that I would become one of the pioneers of female prime mover drivers in the history of PTP.

My journey in PTP has shown that the port operations do not require muscle. Although there had been an initial resistance by some of the male staff to the idea of having female drivers working alongside them, as me and other female colleagues proved our mettle, they have since accepted us part of the group.”

Moving forward, I aspire to become a Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) operator and progress further as a Quay Crane Operator (QC) in the future.”

Her friend, Nurul Farhana Madani, 35 is currently working as a Rubber Tyred Gantry Operator.

“Before joining PTP I actually worked as a religious teacher, but my interest since childhood has always been towards physical work.

When I told my parents that I wanted to quit my teaching job to go working with PTP as a Prime Mover Driver, they were shocked. Naturally, my parents were hesitant at first to allow me to pursue my interest, but after some explaining, they understood and fully supported my choice.

As an RTG Operator, I need to be fully aware of my surroundings, as any misstep can cause severe consequences. However, even though I chose a high-risk career, I feel comfortable and safe because I’m constantly reminded to be careful, either by my colleagues or the company.”

Interestingly, it has been documented that the attrition rate among female prime mover drivers is significantly lower compared to their male colleagues.

PTP is determined to continue playing an active part in increasing women’s participation for the benefit of female employees themselves, the industry and the nation.

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