Captain Radhika Menon India’s First Woman Merchant Navy Captain

Captain Radhika Menon: India’s First Woman Merchant Navy Captain

Success Stories Women

On March 8, 2022, Merchant Navy Captain Radhika Menon was honoured with the Nari Shakti Award in recognition of exceptional work for women empowerment by Former President of India Ram Nath Kovind on International Women’s Day. She is India’s First Woman Merchant Navy Captain and the first Indian woman to win the International Maritime Organization (UN body) award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. Capt. Radhika Menon currently serves as a Captain in the Indian Merchant Navy.

Captain Radhika Menon awarded by former President

Foray Into the Maritime Industry

Capt. Radhika started her career as a trainee Radio Officer in the Shipping Corporation of India in 1991. Following her tenure as a Radio Officer with the Shipping Corporation of India, she transitioned to the deck side, ascending through the ranks. In 2012, she took command of the Suvarna Swarajya, marking her historic milestone as the first female Captain of the Indian Merchant Navy.

A Heroic Rescue Mission by Captain Radhika Menon

In 2016, Captain Radhika Menon, who commanded the oil products tanker Sampurna Swarajya, was honoured with the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. She earned this recognition for her courageous efforts in rescuing seven fishermen from a sinking fishing boat amidst stormy waters.

The Government of India nominated Captain Menon for her role in saving all seven fishermen from the fishing boat Durgamma. The boat had encountered engine failure and lost its anchor in severe weather conditions. The fishermen were left stranded with no food or water, relying only on ice from the cold storage.

On June 22nd, 2015, despite facing waves exceeding 25 feet, winds exceeding 60 knots, and heavy rainfall, the second officer aboard the Sampurna Swarajya spotted the distressed boat 2.5 kilometres away, off the coast of Gopalpur, Orissa.

Captain Menon wasted no time and immediately initiated a rescue operation. Despite the challenging weather conditions, and after three difficult attempts amidst strong winds, rain, and heavy swells, all seven, weak and hungry fishermen, aged between 15 to 50 years old, were successfully brought on board the ship to safety. Their families, who had feared the worst, were relieved and grateful to be reunited with their loved ones a few days later.

Captain Menon is the first woman to receive the prestigious IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations entrusted with the oversight of shipping safety, security, and the prevention of marine pollution caused by ships. 

Setting Up the International Women Seafarers Foundation (IWSF)

Capt. Radhika Menon, along with fellow pioneering women in the maritime industry – Ch. Engg. Suneeti Bala and Ms. Sharvani Mishra co-founded the International Women Seafarers Foundation on November 3rd 2017. The foundation aims to inspire young women seafarers and prepare them for a sea career. The International Women’s Seafarers Foundation (IWSF) has taken a proactive step in ensuring the success and well-being of women seafarers by conducting pre-joining training sessions and offering ongoing mentoring and guidance. Recognizing the unique challenges that women may encounter in the traditionally male-dominated maritime industry, these sessions are tailored to address specific concerns and equip women with the skills and confidence needed to thrive at sea. 

Additionally, the foundation’s mentorship program provides invaluable support for women facing any issues onboard, whether it be related to workplace dynamics, safety concerns, or personal well-being.

Awards and Accomplishments

Captain Radhika Menon Nari Shakti

Captain Radhika has been the recipient of many awards for her bravery and relentless contribution to the maritime industry. Some of the feathers in her cap include:

  • Gallantry at Sea by NMDC India (She is the first woman to receive this honour)
  • International Maritime Organization, UN, award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea in 2016 (She is the first woman in the world to receive this honour)
  • Indian Express “Devi Awards for Women of Innovation and Dynamism” in 2016
  • Panna Dhai Award by Maharana of Mewar in 2017
  • Seafarer of the Year from Lloyd’s List South Asia, Middle East, and Africa in 2017
  • WISTA International Personality of the Year in 2017
  • First Woman Achievers Award by the Hon. President of India in 2018 for her unusual choice of field 
  • United States Coast Guard Medal award
  • Nari Shakti Puraskar by the Hon. President of India in 2021 in recognition of exceptional work for women empowerment
  • Awarded ‘Women Personality of the Year’ at the Shiptek Annual award ceremony 2023

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