July 04, 2023

Seafarers’ welfare organisations come together to address abuse, bullying and harassment at sea

A coalition of UK based organisations concerned about seafarers’ welfare have come together to address abuse, bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence at sea.

The organisations – The Seafarers’ Charity, The Nautical Institute, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), Human Rights At Sea (HRAS), Safer Waves, the UK Sailing Academy (UKSA), the Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP Maritime), Befrienders Worldwide and Tineke Zoet (a maritime wellbeing ambassador) - believe that their unified voice will send a powerful message that there is support for seafarers and seafarers do not, and should not, have to tolerate inappropriate behaviour and toxic leadership when working at sea.

The UK-based organisations each have international reach and shared values, and have agreed to form a network to support the personal and psychological safety of seafarers working in the global maritime industry. The network aims to promote effective joined-up working, avoid duplication and to complement, contribute to, accelerate, and amplify existing initiatives to create safe, positive working cultures for all seafarers.

A focus of the network will be to empower seafarers with education, awareness, support, and solutions which centre around their personal and psychological safety. The network intends to increase understanding of the prevalence of abuse, bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence in maritime, and to coordinate effective, preventative solutions to these issues. As a network, the organisations will come together at regular intervals to share ideas and updates, identify opportunities for collaboration and support, identify gaps in services and resources, consult on important decisions, and work together on a joint, long-term, sector-wide campaign which raises awareness of the importance of the personal and psychological safety of seafarers.

Several charitable welfare support services already exist to support seafarers impacted by bullying, harassment, and sexual violence at sea. These include the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) who provide free, 24-hour multi-lingual helplines SeafarerHelp and Yacht Crew Help; Safer Waves, who deliver an email-based emotional support service to seafarers who have experienced sexual assault or harassment onboard; Salute Her UK who offer women-centric trauma therapy and counselling; Befrienders Worldwide, who offer emotional support in response to suicide ideation; and a number of ship visiting maritime ministry charities with global networks of staff offering practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers.

The network also includes Human Rights At Sea (HRAS), who maintain an independent role in investigating cases brought to the NGO’s attention alongside state authorities' interventions, and CHIRP Maritime who maintain a confidential accident and incident reporting programme. As part of a potential longer-term solution, The Nautical Institute, who represent and support the career development of seafarers, are currently developing new training which aims to enhance the leadership and management skills of seafarers.

The Seafarers’ Charity, a significant maritime grant funder of maritime welfare services, is also a member of the network and is a funder of all of the charities involved, as well as funding CHIRP Maritime and the new leadership and management training from The Nautical Institute.

I am saddened by seafarers’ reports of the issues they face while working at sea. But I am delighted to see so many organisations willing to come together to work on potential solutions to support the personal and psychological safety of seafarers. The Seafarers’ Charity is committed to ensuring that this network has the resources needed to build the evidence and support required for seafarers experiencing bullying, harassment, discrimination and sexual violence onboard.

This Maritime Safety Week I am calling on the shipping industry to take a stance and act to stamp out inappropriate behaviours and toxic leadership that can have such a damaging impact on seafarers’ personal and psychological safety and has no place in a modern working environment.

Deborah Layde
Chief Executive at The Seafarers’ Charity explained why The Seafarers’ Charity is backing this new network

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere announced that Maritime Safety Week 2023 is taking place between 3 and 7 July.