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The The Joint ILO/IMO Tripartite Working Group to Identify and Address Seafarers’ Issues, Human Element Recommends Actions to Address Violence, Sexual Harassment, Bullying, and Assault

March 13, 2024 | By Office of Merchant Mariner Credentialing

The second meeting of the Joint International Labour Organization (ILO)/International Maritime Organization (IMO) Tripartite Working Group to Identify and Address Seafarers' Issues and the Human Element (JTWG) met at the IMO Headquarters from February 27-29, 2024, to consider bullying and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual assault and sexual harassment, and provide recommendations for future steps to address these issues and ensure a safe working environment for seafarers.  Mrs. Mayte Medina of the United States chaired the working group whose members were comprised of seafarers’ representatives, shipowners’ representatives, and representatives from member governments.

The JTWG considered existing relevant maritime legal instruments, guidance, and policy, and discussed proposals submitted by the United States, France, and the International Chamber of Shipping to arrive at a set of recommendations to the ILO and the IMO aimed at addressing bullying and harassment, including sexual assault and sexual harassment. 

Recommendations on Terminology: The JTWG considered the terminology and framework for addressing workplace violence already established in the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190) and recommended that the ILO Governing Body and the 108th meeting of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 108) use the terminology, “violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault" in their relevant instruments and guidance, as appropriate, when addressing these matters.

Recommendations on relevant IMO instruments: The JTWG recommended that MSC 108 consider the adoption of measures to support implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code to address violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault.  To that end, the JTWG recommended that MSC 108 consider adopting a resolution and/or, consider revising existing or developing new IMO guidance that would:  1) incorporate policies and procedures for the prevention of, and response to violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault, in safety management systems, including victim care and protection against retaliation; 2) apportion responsibilities on Administrations and Company's senior management  for addressing cases of violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault, and provide adequate resources for shipboard and shoreside management and response, including medical care and mental health support for victims; and 3) ensure training and familiarization of seafarers and designated shoreside personnel on relevant Company's policies and their implementation.

Recommendations on relevant ILO instruments: The JTWG recommended that the ILO Governing Body invite members of the Special Tripartite Committee of the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006 (MLC, 2006) to submit proposals to amend the MLC, 2006 to ensure that Member States: 1) define and prohibit violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault; 2) adopt relevant policies, measures and programs to prevent and address violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault; 3) require shipowners to adopt relevant policies and measures to prevent and address violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault; and 4) adapt existing onboard and onshore complaints mechanisms to provide easy access to effective remedies in cases of violence and harassment, including the protection against victimization or retaliation and of the privacy and confidentiality of those involved; and 5) enhance cooperation among flag States, port States and labour-supplying States on these issues.

Consideration of an Awareness Campaign: The JTWG additionally recommended that the ILO and IMO coordinate the launching of an international campaign to raise awareness on addressing violence and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault, with the support of ILO and IMO Member States, seafarers, shipowners, governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Consideration of Draft STCW Training Provisions to Address Bullying and Harassment in the Maritime Sector, including Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment:  The JTWG also reviewed the draft amendments to table A-VI/1-4 of the STCW Code that were originally developed at the 9th session of Human Element Training and Watchkeeping subcommittee to provide mandatory training requirements for all seafarers in the prevention of and response to bullying and harassment, including sexual assault and sexual harassment.  The JTWG proposed that the terminology in the draft training provision be revised to replace bullying and harassment, including sexual assault and sexual harassment, with “violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault,” and recommended that MSC 108 consider the draft amendments with a view to adoption at that session.

The amount of work accomplished, and the quality of the recommendations generated during this meeting all served to highlight the strength of the tripartite process in facilitating consensus to examine and resolve complex maritime problems.  The groups representing the Governments, Seafarers, and Shipowners all expressed plans for continued cooperation and commitment to take action on next steps to address violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault in the maritime sector. 

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