Irène BEMARON, tugboat Captain

At the very beginning, when I started as a captain, sometimes sailors didn’t want to get on the boat because the captain was a woman.


Originally from Kouaoua, and intermittent for Cotransmine, Irène BEMARON is the first woman Captain 200 in New Caledonia at the time she  passed the exam.

Now 44 years old, Irène has shaken up many customaries in the very masculine world of the sea and professional navigation.

Two lives in one: Wife, mother and tugboat captain!

Irene is a surprising woman, she exudes a mixture of determination and calm. Her eyes are sure and her gaze sharp, that doesn’t prevent her from being smiling and naturally welcoming. 

Between vocation and necessity, Irène decides to take her Nautical Initiation Certification (CNI) in 2005. She has always wanted to work with the sea and on the sea. And now alone, she has to provide for her two children. As such, she become a sailor. She was willing to work as a fishing sailor, but the closed world of fishing told her there was no place form women in fishing. Then she  turned to sea trade.

She started working for SORECAL, a tug company in Noumea. At the time, one of the Directors saw her pulling the heavy hawsers every day. He encourages her to become captain. Motivated, Irène went for it and obtained in 2007 her Captain 200 (which authorizes her to exercise the functions of captain on ships with a gross tonnage of less than 200UMS).

Always determined to go on as a fishing captain this time, she leaves Kouaoua to work for the Koumac fisheries more than 4 hours from home. After 2 years at a frantic pace, her children back home convince her to turn to shipping for minors. Therefore, she returned to Kouaoua where she began to trade in ore.

To be a woman in this maritime and mining world?

“Mining for me doesn’t make any difference, we, captains like sailors, are people of the sea. Thus, being a woman was not easy at first. As captain the sailors often asked me if I had been doing this for a long time, trust wasn’t a given.

Now I know all of them, and some have even come to apologize. And the new ones who arrive are quite impressed, they ask me the question but not because they are admiring. Things are changing.”

How your career is an example...

“An example I don’t know, but do what you want. And I am proud precisely because it is more a job for most of people. But I did it. My family has supported me and they are proud too.

And in addition since last year, there is another captain, a woman, she is from Nakety. There are 2 of us on the territory now. The way is open.”

Do you have a professional success that you want to share?

“It’s not really a success, but with the teams when you start a load, you always challenge them to do it in 7 days, no more. And there we say to ourselves that we have a month’s pay in 7 days. The pace is intense, very early in the morning until late at night, the work is tiring, but we are proud to do it on time!”