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Equality at Sea: Celebrating World Maritime Day


September 26 marks World Maritime Day, an International Maritime Organization (IMO) observance day dedicated to recognizing marine services, ports, fishing and related industries. This year’s theme, “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community,” drives awareness of the importance of gender equality, and highlights the contributions of women to the maritime sector. 

 ATL Crew - World Maritime Day


As an organization, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) operates in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. We recognize that diverse teams lead to better business results and strive to create and sustain working environments where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Atlantic Towing, Limited (ATL) made waves last year with the first all-female tug boat crew in Nova Scotia, but that was just the beginning. 

“Our industry presents unique challenges to inclusive hiring,” says Gilles Gagnon, VP and General Manager of ATL. “This forces us to think creatively to expand and diversify our employee base to include underrepresented groups. Our goal is to develop a mature program focused on the full benefits of diverse and inclusive ideas and experiences.”

Read on for more information about our ongoing initiatives and exciting progress!

“I think women are a fantastic resource for the industry, which currently remains largely untapped…And the few women that have been given opportunities and have demonstrated that they can make excellent captains, chief engineers and so on.” Helen Sampson, Director, Seafarers International Research Centre. 

Born to Be

Some people are born to be seafarers. No matter the barriers or challenges, they'll overcome every one to meet their goal. Atlantic Towing has welcomed many seafarers with incredible journeys. See the video below for more on Nita Duguay's story! 



Breaking Down Barriers And Building A Fleet

Cortney Banks has been on and around water as long as she can remember. She grew up in Shag Harbour, a fishing community on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, and her father is a fisherman. Her background, combined with her love of both boats and math, led Cortney to Memorial University in Newfoundland where she earned her degree in Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering. 

 ISI - Cortney Banks


Immediately after graduating, Cortney moved to Houston, Texas, spending two and half years in the offshore oil and gas industry as a subsea installation project engineer. When a friend working at Halifax Shipyard shared that there were job openings with Irving Shipbuilding, Cortney felt it would be a perfect fit; she could bring her naval architecture expertise to a large shipbuilding program and she would be able to move back to her home province to live and work near family. 

 In her current role as a Functional Engineer on the Hull and Deck Outfit Team, Cortney owns several accommodations systems onboard the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS). She is one of only a handful of female engineers working on the AOPS program to own systems. 

Cortney handles everything (other than specialized systems like electrical, HVAC and plumbing) the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy will need to live onboard the AOPS. She is responsible for design changes to anything from couches and beds to galley, desks, floors, walls, ceilings and bathrooms.

Cortney’s time working offshore in oil and gas has given her unique perspective as a naval architect – she knows firsthand what it’s like to live onboard a vessel.

As the system owner, it’s Cortney’s job to determine appropriate system design changes as necessary. The need for change can arise for many reasons, ranging from a supplier discontinuing a product to a design not meeting requirements, so Cortney needs to be a creative and innovative problem solver. 

Seeing her changes come to life is one of Cortney’s favourite parts of the job.

“I enjoy the challenging work and having a lot of responsibility,” she says. “It’s so rewarding when you solve a problem and can go out to the ship to see the finished product and say, ‘Hey, I worked on this and it works.’”

Cortney also counts helping to develop Build-an-AOPS ( a classroom activity for future shipbuilders, as a highlight. The fun, interactive activity was created by engineers, quality inspectors, and project managers from Halifax Shipyard in partnership with the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) and is now in classrooms across the country. 

Working at a company that places high value on developing people gives Cortney the ability to grow with Irving Shipbuilding. 

In the future, Cortney would like to manage not only technical projects, but also people. She loves working with others, citing her day-to-day interactions with her co-workers as one of the main reasons she feels satisfied at the end of the day. She’s put her passion for working with people to good use at Halifax Shipyard as part of the Engineering Employee Engagement Team, supporting initiatives like an engineering newsletter and team building activities. 

Learn more about the rewarding careers available with Irving Shipbuilding at