Bullying and harassment, including sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH), in the maritime environment have known detrimental effects on seafarers including depression, poor performance, unhealthy coping mechanisms and isolation. Moreover, seafarers who experience or witness bullying and harassment, including SASH, are more likely to make errors at work and provide compromised levels of service. In the maritime industry, these experiences lead to negative effects on recruitment and retention of seafarers and pose significant risks to the safe and secure operation of maritime vessels. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has recognized the importance of developing a maritime workplace culture that is safe and inclusive for all seafarers and maritime professionals as a means of improving operational safety and security in the maritime industry.
The IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) recognized that training and education would provide the necessary foundation to empower seafarers to challenge the longstanding culture that has been tolerant of bullying and harassment, including SASH. MSC instructed the Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) to prioritize the development of mandatory training provisions addressing bullying and harassment, including SASH, for the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code.
The ninth session of HTW (HTW 9) met February 6 – 10, 2023 and considered proposals on mandatory training requirements to address bullying and harassment, including SASH. The United States submitted a proposal developed in consultation with the National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee and the National Merchant Mariner Medical Advisory Committee, which the sub-committee agreed to use as the basis of the draft amendments to the required personal safety and social responsibilities training. The U.S. submission proposed the addition of a new competence on the prevention of bullying and harassment, including SASH, with associated knowledge, understanding and proficiencies (KUPs) addressing prevention, awareness, bystander intervention, response, and reporting of bullying and harassment, including SASH.
The draft amendments will be approved by MSC 106 in June of this year and forwarded to the IMO and International Labour Organization (ILO) Joint Tripartite Working Group (JTWG) for consideration. Following that, HTW 10 will review the input from the JTWG before sending to MSC 108 in 2024 with a view toward adoption.