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APM Terminals: Sustainably embracing equity

Gender equality is nothing less than essential if ports are to become more sustainable. That’s not just our opinion, it’s the conclusion of the academic report ‘Gender equality for sustainability in ports: Developing a framework’, published in 2021.

The report drew on interviews from senior leaders in the industry, and, while it concentrated on Europe, authors Maria Barreiro-Gen and Rodrigo Lozano from the University of Gavle, Sweden, said its recommendations have universal application.

Redressing the balance

The authors acknowledged that, “ports have engaged in efforts to become more sustainable” in the last decade but social issues have been largely neglected in research and practice. “Gender Equality,” it said, has “been ranked almost at the bottom of European ports’ sustain-ability priorities.” Speaking with APM Terminals, Lozano said “the work environment must be woman friendly, so that women stay in the industry, and thus make the best of their productivity, focus, organisation, and discipline.” His words resonate with the efforts being made in our global operations where women are increasingly working on the frontline of our operations, and at the helm.

Recruiting the best

Efforts made to attract and retain a gender balance in our workforce include recruitment policies, anti-harassment protocols, work-life balance initiatives and communication drives. Such endeavours have been widely employed by APM Terminals and have created many breakthrough careers and ‘firsts’ in the industry such as Cruz Landa, the first female heavy equipment operator at APM Terminals Lázaro Cárdenas (Mexico), Alba López, Maintenance Operator, APM Terminals Barcelona (Spain) and Merlyn Bermudez, Shift Manager at APM Terminals, Moín (Costa Rica).

Gender balance is a topic APM Terminals is firmly committed to as part of our overall position on Diversity and Inclusion and our values.

Setting an example

An example of our equity in employment success can be seen in the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) in Malaysia where we’re breaking traditional stereotypes to encourage more women to pursue a career in the port logistics industry.

Marco Neelsen, PTP’s Chief Executive Officer, believes that gender equality and diversity are crucial to continued success as Asia-Pacific’s prime transshipment and free zone business hub.

“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 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.”

Investing in talent

To deliver on its ambition, PTP has actively worked on various talent enrichment such as the Young Engineer Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP), Port Operational Planning Apprenticeship Programme (POPA) and industry collaborations such as the Talent Exchange Program and Female Terminal Equipment Operator Fast Track Up-Skilling Program.

As part of the latter, female operations staff with high potential have been enrolled to a specialised training programme that catapults their careers from prime mover drivers to Quay Crane Clerks, RTG Operators to Quay Crane Operators.

In addition, a Female Employee Referral Programme is ongoing to entice more female talent in Malaysia to join the PTP workforce.

Supportive work environment


In acknowledgement that retaining female colleagues is as important as hiring, PTP has made efforts to give women dedicated space, including single-sex prayer rooms and forums such as a Women’s Focus Group to channel ideas, comments or grievances.

Currently, PTP’s female workforce represents 7% or around 393 workers, in both management and non-management positions. Out of this, 266 are employed in operations, engineering, safety and security, including Siti Sukma Drahman. One of the Prime Mover drivers at the terminal, who considers working at one of the busiest ports in the world a dream come true.

“Growing up, I was always attracted to 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 shows that port operations do not necessitate physical muscle. Myself and other female colleagues have proved our mettle, and have become accepted as part of the team.”

Drahman is setting her sights on career progression and plans to become a Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) operator before taking a role as a Quay Crane Operator in the future.

As a group, equal employment and growth opportunities apply at each and every one of our locations. We welcome female, male, non-binary and LGBTQ+ applicants and encourage women to help us achieve our equal opportunity ambitions, and for all our employees to enjoy rewarding careers.