Julie-Anne Wood has made history by becoming the first woman to achieve the rank of Head of Maritime Operations at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

For the first time in its history, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has selected a woman – Julie-Anne Wood – as the new Head of Maritime Operations.

The appointment makes Wood the highest ranked woman in Her Majesty’s Coastguard.

The role of Head of Maritime Operations heads up the National Maritime Operations Centre in Fareham and the 10 Coastguard Operations Centres that co-ordinate search and rescue around the UK coast.

It is one of the most senior roles in HM Coastguard, part of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, and up until now, the role has always been held by a man.

Julie-Anne Wood began her coastguard career in the Welsh coastal town of Milford Haven in 1999 as a part-time Coastguard Watch Assistant.

Before that, she ran her own business providing safety training to fishermen and merchant seamen in Wales.

An opportunity for a permanent Coastguard Watch Assistant came up and in Wood’s words, she “never looked back.”

Over the next nine years, Wood progressed through the ranks to Watch Officer, Watch Manager and then Rescue Co-ordination Centre Manager in 2008.

Changes to VHF channel numbers to contact UK Coastguard

In 2011, her career changed direction, where she fulfilled her long-term goal to become a Coastguard Technical Trainer within the HR team.

In 2013, she became head of Technical Training and Standards and in 2014 she temporarily covered the role of Head of Maritime Operations before being permanently appointed to the position.

Julie-Anne Wood said she didn’t set out to make HM Coastguard history, it was just a natural advancement of her career.

“It’s a huge responsibility and a position that I’m very honoured to hold.  What may have once been a male-dominated industry is very different these days,” she said.

“The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has incorporated women in everything they do. In my experience, there have been no restrictions.  I have never allowed my gender to get in the way of my career – that’s one of the great things about HM Coastguard – the only limits on women are those that are imposed by themselves,” she continued.

“I am fortunate to be surrounded by an extraordinary team of strong women and men who are driven, talented and deliver an incredible service 24 hours a day,” added Wood.

Despite her success, Wood said that her proudest moments are still engrained in bringing people home to their families.

“Every rescue is different, but the feeling you get when we’ve rescued someone in their darkest hours still makes a huge impression on me emotionally. There is no better feeling than seeing families reunited and know that you’ve played a part in that,” stressed the Head of Maritime Operations.