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What do you enjoy most about your job?

Marine risk engineering is a varied field and in Brazil it’s very dynamic. My job takes me to ports around the country to check on and verify procedures and equipment, conduct site inspections and risk surveys, just about anything to do with port risks and cargo. A lot of commodities move in and around Brazil on a variety of ships, so I see a lot of those. One of the parts I like about my job is it always keeps me thinking about how to solve risk problems for our customers. For example, vessel stability is a big issue, so I have to check calculations and design criteria, examine cargo and ballast operations, weight distribution and assess structural elements. A lot can happen during the load-out and load-in phases of marine cargo, so you have to be aware of the risks. I enjoy working with customers and colleagues at XL Catlin to find solutions that make processes safer, not just for whatever cargo is being moved but also the people who are transporting it.

What attracted you to a career in the marine field?

I’ve always been interested in shipping, which is fortunate because that’s a major industry in a country like Brazil, which has almost 7,500 km (4,650 miles) of coastline. At university, I studied naval architecture and marine engineering. My professional development really started when I got an engineering internship at an international marine classification society in Rio de Janeiro. Then I gained more project experience at another classification society. After graduation, I went to work at an intermodal logistics company, where I led engineering on cargo barges. My career has continued to evolve with XL Catlin, where I’m working on marine cargo and liability risks.

What was it like as a woman in the mostly male field of marine engineering?

I knew that my career choice would not necessarily be easy. But I never felt out of place or had trouble socially, while studying naval architecture and marine engineering. I got along great with my colleagues and teachers. The real challenge started when I stepped into professional life. Some male peers expected that I would work mainly in an office, but all the courses I took made me interested in working directly in the field. I was persistent, and I didn’t let go of my dreams. In fact I developed a stronger focus so that I could apply my knowledge in the field, lead a team and learn from the practical experience my older colleagues. I believe that if you have self-assurance, whatever problems you’re working on will become easier to solve and you can help people move forward. 

Was it hard transitioning to underwriting and insurance?

It was not as hard as you might expect. The greatest challenge I faced in this process was learning a new professional language. The nature of my work for XL Catlin involves technical applications from my engineering background, so that is not a real problem for me. Adapting my technical background to a new environment, with new people and new approaches, was a little challenging. I considered my biggest task to become a valuable resource, bring something new to the job and think “outside the box.” In Brazil, marine underwriting involves several fields such as marine liability, for port operators and cargo transport which includes logistics for both cargo handling and transport and Hull and Machinery. Marine liability was a familiar environment to me, from my background, but I feel very comfortable working in all those fields.

What career advice would you give to young professionals?

I would say, first, don’t let go of your dreams. Keep working toward whatever you want to do. Secondly, stays focused and pursue what you’re passionate about. Young professionals have good opportunities in the marketplace, although some employers are looking for more experience. Brazil just went through an economic and political crisis, which was a difficult situation, but we are starting to breathe the air of recovery. I am absolutely confident that with the experience of the previous generation and the energy and new knowledge of young professionals we can navigate through the economic headwinds and come out much better in the near future.



Mariana de Lima Pinheiro is a marine risk engineer at XL Catlin, Brazil in Sao Paulo, helping Marine Underwriters understand their risks and also working with customers to implement mitigation solutions. Before joining XL Catlin in 2015, she worked at international shipping classification societies and at an intermodal logistics company. She has a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, and her areas of expertise include marine cargo, marine liability and risk control.

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