It’s a girl! But why?

freighter ship at sea

Have you ever wondered why ships are referred to as ‘she’? It’s a fact that’s puzzled many of us for years. It’s not a sexist move, and in fact, it’s something that the shipping industry has tried to put a stop to in recent years. But what’s the history of the female ship and why are they traditionally known as ‘she’?

The history

Back in the day, sailors jokingly claimed that ships were known as ‘she’ because, like any woman, ships are “unpredictable”. Probably not an argument that would go down well in the modern day! A more plausible reason is that according to traditional myth, Sea Goddess’ ruled the underwater realms, such as Amphitrite, and ships were considered just as mighty and powerful. What’s more, old fashioned ships would often have a female figurehead at the forefront and therefore calling it ‘she’ made sense.

Recent changes

A few years ago however, Lloyds List, the industry’s oldest publication, deemed the fact that ships were still being referred to as ‘she’ dated and pledged to always call the vessels ‘it’ from then on. The 280+ year old publication announced it was abandoning centuries of seafaring tradition in favour of a more modern outlook. They claimed to want to bring the newspaper “into line with most other reputable international business titles” and from that moment onward, referred to ships strictly as ‘it’.

What’s in a name?

Some might argue that the decision to stop naming ships ‘she’ is an offence to tradition and they may be right: after all, Lloyd’s List’s decision was not made on the basis of any uproar or gender political force. Regardless, there are plenty of ships named after female figures that have taken to, and still take to, the mighty oceans:

  • Lady Washington was a gunboat commissioned in 1776 named after Martha Washington, the first lady of the White House, and was the first American ship to be named in honour of a female figure
  • The USS Florence Nightingale was a cargo ship built for Moore-McCormack Lines back in 1941 and later served in World War II
  • RV Sally Ride is an oceanographic research vessel named after female astronaut Sally Ride who was the first American female in space
  • One of the largest container ships in the world, with a capacity of 19224 TEU containers, is the MSCZoe, named after the four-year old granddaughter of the president of MSC.

No matter their gender, there’s no doubt that ships are a fundamental factor when it comes to industry and economy. At Seaspace, we offer a range of global sea freight services ranging from full containers (FCL) and part load (LCL) imports and exports to project and out-of-gauge shipments. Call us today on 01293 554620 or email for a bespoke quote and more information on how we can help you.

Posted in BLOG, Facts.