Meet Stolt Tankers’ first female Captain

Captain Frida Rivera de Ita has served as Captain aboard 37,000 DWT tanker Stolt Innovation since 2019. We recently took some time out to ask her about her career at sea, what motivates her and her experience as a female captain of a chemical tanker.

What inspired you to pursue a career at sea?

I was born far from the ocean, in the mountains in Puebla, Mexico, but I always had a romantic idea of living at sea. I was getting ready to study literature at university when I came across the Maritime Academy while on vacation in Veracruz. I went and asked what it was all about and liked what I heard: travelling around the world, meeting different people from exotic lands and learning new languages.

When I returned home, I broke the news to my family that I was going to be a seafarer. They didn’t believe me, but I’d made up my mind and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Can you briefly describe your career path to Captain?

After graduating in 2000, I completed my cadetship and went to work for a Swedish company. I joined Stolt Tankers in 2005 on board Stolt Kestrel as Junior Third Officer and then Third Officer. I learned a lot, became stronger and then it was time to go to the ‘big primrose yellow ships’!

First was Stolt Aquamarine and then Stolt Concept, a D37 and a completely different world with all those computers and buttons. In 2009, I was promoted to Chief Officer on board Stolt Inspiration, which was a big responsibility and challenge.

I spent a few years in that role then, due to life circumstances, I took a job in the US, based in New Orleans as Port Superintendent. I enjoyed it, but I still had the desire to become a Captain, so in 2016 I went back to sea on board Stolt Efficiency.

Do you remember the day you were promoted to Captain?

It was a cold day in January 2019. I got the call and I nearly dropped to the floor; I was so overwhelmed. I joined Stolt Innovation a couple of weeks later and I’ve been Captain of this lovely lady ever since. I have a fantastic crew with me, we are like a little family, and we always have each other’s backs.

How would you describe a ‘typical’ day in the life of a Captain?

When I'm at sea, I get up early, check in with the bridge – which is basically the command centre of the ship – and attend the morning meeting at 07:30 to discuss the plans for the day. After that, I take a walk on deck to check all the necessary tasks are being completed and catch up with the second mate and third mate to review our plans, check the traffic situation and the weather, and generally ensure that we are safe. I spend the rest of the day between the office, the deck and the bridge.

Dinner is at 18:00 and then sometimes we watch a movie. I am a cinema fanatic and my ship mates claim that some of my movie choices are a bit weird! Before going to bed, I go back to the bridge and write my night orders and catch up again with the third mate.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The respect, trust, support and appreciation I receive from my colleagues, and the friendships I have developed. I am proud of what I’ve achieved, thanks to my own hard work and the confidence that Stolt Tankers has in me.

Have you faced any specific challenges as a woman working at sea?

Fortunately, I’ve never been treated differently because I’m a woman, but it’s difficult to shake off the notion that you won’t be taken as seriously as your male counterparts. I’ve always had the same duties and rights as any other officer, but it’s been a long road for me to develop the confidence to ask for help and overcome my fear that this will make me look weak. That is certainly not the case.

How do you think we can encourage more women into the maritime industry?

I would say that whether you’re female or male, the desire to take on this role must come from within. It is not only a job, it’s a lifestyle, which brings with it some big challenges, including separation from home. But there are also many rewards. I feel very lucky because I truly love what I do, and I also get to visit new places and meet awesome people.