THE male-dominated world of Hongkong shipping has been brought up to date with the visit to the territory of one of a new breed of Scandinavian sea captains. Chief Officer Minna Zscharnack is about to graduate with her master's ticket from the Abo Navigational Institute in Finland and is visiting Marine Department and shipping industry officials with 10 male classmates. Officer Zscharnack was surprised to discover that Hongkong hadn't produced a woman Master, a qualification which takes about 10 years of study and experience on ships. ''I'm the only one in my class at the moment but it's not uncommon in Sweden, Finland, North America and Britain,'' she said. ''I've already served on ships with men off South America and I know there are still conservative attitudes around.'' It was important to realise that life at sea was like life in the military, in that people were regarded according to rank, she said. Going to sea was the obvious choice coming from a family who run a one-ship company, she said. Captain Martin Forsen said that because of a tough economic climate in Finland, many young men and women were being drawn back to shipping and could end up working out of more prosperous areas such as Hongkong. Local Marine Department planning officer, Senior Marine Officer John Lambert, said he was encouraged to see old attitudes changing. ''The real issue in the marine business in that we need able, qualified people, regardless of gender.'' he said.