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Matson Dives Into Diversity And Inclusion

STRAIT OF MALACCA (July 2, 2022) – Military Sealift Command civil service mariner Mario Lumanlan, from Guam, assigned to the Emory S Land-class submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40), steers the ship as it departs Singapore July 2, 2022. Frank Cable is currently on patrol conducting expeditionary maintenance and logistics to support national security in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaitlyn E. Eads/Released)

Matson Dives Into Diversity And Inclusion

John Konrad
Total Views: 1663
July 25, 2023

by John Konrad (gCaptain) In a significant stride towards promoting diversity and inclusion, Matson ($MATX), a leading US Flag containership operator, reported that over half of its new hires into management roles in 2022 were minorities. This information was disclosed in the company’s 2022 Sustainability Report, which highlights Matson’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment. Matson’s stock price soared yesterday after the release of this report and positive guidance numbers. This is positive news but more can be done to promote minorities to leadership positions at sea.

Matson, with a 141-year history of serving the Pacific, has always been a company that adapts and evolves. This commitment to diversity and inclusion is a testament to their ability to not only adapt to the changing times but also to lead the change. The company believes that an inclusive, diverse, and equitable work environment contributes significantly to the success of its business.

In 2022, more than one-third of internal promotions and new hires into management roles were women, and over half were minorities. These figures demonstrate Matson’s active promotion of diversity within their leadership ranks. The company is purposeful about cultivating an inclusive environment, consistent with their aloha culture.

Editorial credit: Sheila Fitzgerald /
Editorial credit: Sheila Fitzgerald /

In addition to promoting diversity within the company, Matson is also investing in scholarship programs and internships to encourage more women and minorities to pursue careers in the maritime and logistics sectors. In 2022, the company awarded 20 scholarships to diverse, high-achieving students and recruited five interns from diverse backgrounds.

While this is certainly positive news sources inside the company tell gCaptain that most of the changes occurred shoreside and a lot more work needs to be done to get minority and women officers into key positions aboard Matson ships at sea.

Shoreside Vs At Sea Diversity

“Matson has a lot of women and AAPI individuals working throughout offices in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam,” said one officer aboard a Matson ship. “As for the ships, no definitely not.”

“American ships tend to be very diverse with crews from every walk of life,” said another Matson officer. “But diversity typically doesn’t extend into the higher officer ranks.”

Addressing the challenge of diversifying the crews on ships, particularly in leadership roles, is a complex issue due to the significant levels of experience required. Positions such as Captain and Chief Engineer necessitate advanced licenses that can take more than a decade to acquire.

While there is no shortage of highly skilled Captains from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds in the international fleet, U.S. regulations present a hurdle. These regulations stipulate that officers can only sail on U.S. flagged ships if they hold licenses issued by the U.S. This regulatory constraint limits the pool of potential candidates for leadership roles on U.S. vessels, thereby complicating efforts to enhance diversity.

It’s important to note that these challenges do not diminish the importance of Matson’s commitment to increasing diversity shoreside. Continued efforts are needed to promote inclusive practices, such as encouraging and supporting individuals from diverse backgrounds to acquire U.S.-issued licenses, and advocating for regulatory changes that support a more diverse and inclusive maritime industry both shoreside and at sea.

Sources of Talent

There have been efforts by Matson and the maritime unions that supply them labor to send more encouraging more minorities to start the long process. Schools like New York City’s Harbor School succeed in attracting kids from even the poorest neighborhoods and maritime academies like New York Maritime College in the Bronx work closely with local high schools and with organizations like The Organization of Black Maritime Graduates (OBMG) to recruit students from all minority backgrounds.

While significant strides have been made by groups like the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association WISTA to promote women and diversity in shoreside leadership roles but there is still much work to be done to continue this forward momentum to ships and opportunities abound for companies and groups willing to invest in this problem.

For instance, the U.S. Navy, known for its diverse bridge teams, has a Military-To-Mariner program designed to facilitate the transition of naval personnel to the commercial sector after their service. This program could significantly bolster diversity efforts aboard Matson and other US Flagged ships.

Nate Gilman, Co-Founder and President of MM-SEAS, a maritime credentialing service that assists Merchant Mariners in navigating the intricate licensing rules of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), is a strong advocate for the program but has told gCaptain that minorities Naval officers continue to face significant obstacles. He points out that administrative barriers and outdated US Navy human resource software systems are hindering the credential transfer process for many naval officers, including those from minority groups and women. This impediment is preventing these officers and enlisted sailors from obtaining the necessary sea-service letters required to obtain commercial licenses.

Furthermore, Gilman suggests that the military could do more to encourage underrepresented groups, such as the US Military’s trained Afghan military partners struggling to find jobs in America, to pursue training as Ordinary Seamen. This would provide a pathway for these individuals to enter the maritime industry. However, for this to be feasible, unions and companies like Matson would likely need to increase the number of entry-level Ordinary Seaman positions available. This would provide these new entrants with the opportunity to begin their maritime careers and start climbing the professional ladder.

Diversity Internationally

This is not solely an American issue. While international companies collectively recruit from a truly diverse pool of candidates, many – often in an effort to streamline travel and visa requirements – tend to hire the majority of their officers from a single nation.

For instance, in regions like the Strait of Malacca, a Filipino watch officer aboard one ship might communicate via radio with a Ukrainian officer aboard a passing ship, coordinate actions with Singaporean and Indonesian vessel traffic service watchstanders, take a brief call from an Argentinian owner, and work on loading arrangements with an African port agent. However, once in open waters, this officer is likely to work predominantly with other Filipino officers and crew members aboard his ship.

“Shoreside, this is an incredibly diverse and multicultural industry that exposes all my employees to individuals from every corner of the planet,” shared one shipping executive who preferred to remain anonymous. “However, I must acknowledge that each ship we own typically represents just two or three nationalities at any given time and some ships are complete monocultures.”

This practice, while simplifying administrative processes, can limit the diversity within individual crews. It underscores the need for a more inclusive approach to hiring within the maritime industry, one that encourages a mix of nationalities and backgrounds on the same vessel, thereby promoting a truly global and diverse working environment.


In conclusion, while progress has been made, a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including the military, unions, and commercial companies, is needed to overcome existing barriers and further enhance diversity within the maritime industry.

Matson’s proactive approach to diversity and inclusion is a testament to their commitment to their employees and their business. The company understands that a diverse workforce brings a variety of perspectives and ideas, which can lead to innovative solutions and strategies. By promoting diversity and inclusion, Matson is creating a positive work environment for their employees and driving their business forward.

The company’s 2022 Sustainability Report underscores its commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as dedication to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) priorities. As Matson continues to evolve and adapt, their commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion remains a key part of their strategy for success but more work needs to be done to diversify the workforce both shoreside and at sea. Hopefully more shipping companies follow Matson’s lead and all parties work together to improve the diversity of bridge and engine teams at sea.

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