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Women in maritime charting a course for the next generation

Saturday 18 May 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Weekend

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Women in maritime charting a course for the next generation
Cook Islands women in maritime gathered yesterday at the Are Tapaeanga at Avatiu Harbour to celebrate the International Day for Women in Maritime. MELINA ETCHES/ 24051715

Cook Islands women in maritime celebrated their contributions to the industry focusing on safety, shared their experiences and highlighted the increasing presence of women in leadership roles.

A group of motivated and determined women gathered yesterday at the Are Tapaeanga at Avatiu Harbour to celebrate the International Day for Women in Maritime. The theme for this year’s International Day for Women in Maritime celebrated worldwide on May 18 is “Safe Horizons: Women Shaping the Future of Maritime Safety”.

Women working in the various sectors of maritime shared their stories and words of encouragement with others to pursue a career in maritime.

Ngamata Patricia Tuara, director for maritime at the Ministry of Transport, opened the event focused on its theme.

“Keep your focus on that horizon, focus and go.”

Working in male-dominated areas can be tough sometimes “when you arrive at meetings to see there are only two women representatives in a room full of men”, says Tuara.

She drives for equal opportunities for all women, “for us to sit at that decision-making table with fellow men and have our say”.

Tuara pays tribute to people who have been a beacon in her life – her 92-year-old father, her husband Andreas Demmke who is always supportive, and her former boss, the late Julian Dashwood, who she says saw the potential in her.


Tiare Nicholas, acting director of Offshore Fisheries/Data Manager at the Ministry of Marine Resources. MELINA ETCHES/24051717

Tiare Nicholas is the acting director of Offshore Fisheries/Data Manager at the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR).

She says being a female in the maritime space is “a bit of a biggie”.

However, she notes that there is now more representation of women in the region in high-level decision-making forums, including Cook Islander Pamela Maru, Secretary of MMR.

Nicholas returned to the Cook Islands several years ago with a Bachelor of Science from Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in Aotearoa New Zealand.

She has worked at MMR for five years, having started as an intern for a year.

Taking on the role of a junior fisheries officer, she soon moved into a senior fisheries officer position.

Furthering her skill set she is currently undertaking a science paper with Massey University, as well as attending stock assessment workshops at SPC (The Pacific Community).

Nicholas oversees and manages catch and effort data from fishing vessels which requires checking the log sheets in vessels, noting weight, effort, and types of gear.

For longliners, the number of hooks is a key metric, while for purse seiners, the number of fishing days is tracked.

During data collection, Nicholas carries out analysis and prepares annual reports that are released to the public on the MMR website. The catch, effort, and economics from the previous year are included in these reports.

Nicholas says she enjoys networking with other countries as well as sharing and comparing experiences for improvement.

The operational side of her role includes meeting people on different boats, taking measurements and random samples.


Josie Raita is the finance and human resources administration officer at the Seabed Minerals Authority. MELINA ETCHES/ 24051718

Taina Tangaroais a trainee seaman on Te Kukupa II patrol boat.

She had been working in the frontline of the Police force and in November 2022, she joined Te Kukupa II.

Tangaroa was familiar with the work involved onboard since she had a family member on the crew.

Having completed the Patrol Boat Recruit course in Australia, she highlights the training benefits gained in areas like engineering and navigation.

Tangaroa enjoys her job because of travel opportunities to the Pa Enua and abroad. She is currently out at sea on Te Kukupa II.

Tina Kingis the general manager of Akura Fishing Charters.

She is a familiar face at Avatiu Harbour working in all aspects of the fishing charter business, except for taking charters out on the three boats.

King has an office in the Transam building working the sales, administration, accounts, and marketing side of the business.

She enjoys the flexible working environment.

King is the only woman in this charter business and says she gets on well with her boss and the men.

Her background in hospitality, including experience dealing with clients, administration, and working as a personal assistant in property development, has proven valuable in her current role.


Vaine Nooana-Arioka, the in-country manager for Moana Minerals, and Mata Vainerere, president of the Cook Islands Women in Maritime Association. MELINA ETCHES/24051719

King says her role would be of interest to those who have skills in touch typing and basic accounting.

Rotana Howardis the compliance officer at Maritime Cook Islands which performs all flag state duties for the Cook Islands government through an agreement with the Ministry of Transport.

Her role includes conducting customer due diligence (CDD) following MCI legislation and regulations. This involves verifying vessel registrations and renewals as well as facilitating the formation of Cook Islands Limited Liability Company (LLCs) with local trustee companies.

Apart from ensuring compliance within operations, Howard also enjoys looking into different methods to improve efficiency in the CDD department.

“Time waits for no one,” she says, “do things now that your future self will thank you for.”