Pride Month 2021 and the International Day of the Seafarer came together to great effect on 25 June at the Nautilus Equality and Diversity Forum.
With a good showing of Union members and staff in attendance, the online meeting welcomed guest speaker Captain Thomas Lindegaard Madsen, who talked about the Maersk rainbow containers tour and his experiences as a prominent LGBT+ seafarer.
Capt Lindegaard Madsen is well known on social media, and he explained that this has led other LGBT+ maritime professionals to contact him for advice. 'I've been lucky to come from a country and work for a company who accept me for who I am, but it's not so easy for everyone,' he said.
Whereas Capt Lindegaard Madsen met his future husband on one of his first postings to sea, others can feel they don't fit in onboard and ask if there is a career for them in shipping. 'I say there is a future for you if you can find the right company, but if you need to stay quiet for now [rather than coming out], then you should. I believe there is a place for everybody, and what we're doing now will help them find that.'
What he's primarily doing is increasing visibility, he noted. There is a positive tradition to draw on of quiet acceptance of LGBT+ crew members onboard ship, but now it's important to be more visible and gain strength in numbers: 'Visibility is the only weapon we have'.
That is why he is so active on social media, and why he has been pleased to carry the Maersk rainbow containers on his ship. Currently on a world tour, these containers are painted in the colours associated with LGBT+ Pride, and are said to be carrying 'love, hope and tolerance' wherever they go – although they are also available to hire commercially by companies keen to associate themselves with the values they encapsulate.
Could the initiative be 'pinkwashing', wondered an attendee at the Nautilus meeting. In other words, is Maersk jumping on the bandwagon for commercial gain as Pride becomes popular in more countries? 'We don't do this for profit,' Capt Lindegaard Madsen replied. 'But if there is a sense that this can be commercialised and fashionable, why not take advantage of this?'
Maersk wants to send the message that it is looking to attract diverse talent, he stressed, and perhaps that message will reach other companies and hopefully inspire confidence in those LGBT+ maritime professionals who wonder if they have a future in maritime.