WISTA first began in 1974 when Pat Butler, who at that time was working for Trafco, Sheila Lawrence of Shell and Stella Marks (then known as Stella Inghams), all from the U.K., arranged to meet for a Christmas lunch. The lunch was a success. The women, therefore, decided to get together for lunch on a more regular basis. During the course of the next six years, the London women invited contacts from overseas to join them for their meetings until there were approximately 25 women involved. .At that time, in view of the expanding numbers, it was decided that the group should be given a title They decided on the “WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING AND TRADING ASSOCIATION”
At the meeting in 1980, Helga Zinke of Intercoast and Erika Grambo of United Chemical Tankers suggested that the meeting in 1981 should take place in Hamburg as opposed to London. This was agreed. However, instead of organising a simple lunch, Helga and Erika arranged a visit to the Hamburg port, a number of discussions on topics of interest to the members of the association and for various dinners and lunches.
During the following years, the group organised annual meetings throughout Europe. The aim of these meetings was educational and intended to enable the members to keep abreast of developments in the shipping and trading industry. It was in this way that the annual lunch expanded into a conference, sponsored by the shipping interests of the hosting country, involving visits, lectures, workshops and, of course, the Gala dinner attended by members, sponsors and all other participants. The number of delegates attending the annual conference was now in the order of between ‘150-200’.
The annual meetings were extended to a conference programme in 1981, when the first WISTA conference was held in Hamburg, Germany.
As the international organisation was developing a number of participating countries decided to set up their own national associations. It started in 1986 with the creation of Wista Norway and Wista Sweden followed in 1990 by Wista Denmark.
Given the growth in the Association, it was decided at the annual WISTA International Conference held in Liverpool in 1993 that the Association should be put on a formal footing and subject to statutes governing the operation of the organisation. So the WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING AND TRADING ASSOCIATION was born. It expanded rapidly throughout Europe and eventually spread as far as the Far East, the USA, Central America – WISTA-UK was born. While the membership was expanding geographically, so was the range of maritime skills being brought to the organisation by the increasing membership.