THE INTERNATIONAL Chamber of Shipping has launched a set of industry principles designed to combat and eliminate harassment and bullying in the maritime sector.

The principles have been published against the backdrop of a report by the International Labour Organization – alongside Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) and Gallup – on experiences of violence and harassment at work.

The global survey and analysis benefitted from the insights of 74,364 respondents in employment across a range of sectors in 121 countries and territories. 

It found that one in five people (almost 23%) in employment have experienced violence and harassment at work, whether physical, psychological or sexual.

“Although the data from the global ILO-LRF-Gallup report does not cover cases on board ships, the figures do point to a need for all industries and sectors to ensure that they do the utmost to prevent harassment and bullying,” ICS director of employment affairs Helio Vicente said.

“The maritime sector is no exception and must continue to take the issue very seriously. This includes having suitable policies and complementary measures in place to address it. 

“The impact of violence and harassment, when experienced by seafarers on board is significant since a ship is often a seafarer’s home for many months.”

ICS submitted the industry principles to shipping’s global UN regulators, the ILO and International Maritime Organization, ahead of a joint meeting between the two UN bodies, alongside governments, shipowners, and unions, convened to address this issue in the maritime sector. 

The joint ILO/IMO Tripartite Working Group meeting to identify and address seafarers’ issues and the human element will take place from 27-29 February.

Through its policy paper, ICS has set out five high level and eight detailed principles to combat harassment and bullying. 

ICS drew from policies and initiatives provided by shipping companies within its global network of shipowners and operators. 

Among the new set of principles are the need for individual companies to clearly define and communicate what harassment and bullying means for them, including examples of behaviours that constitute these actions. 

The principles also emphasise the value of establishing clear and unambiguous company complaints management procedures that cover the shoreside and all shipboard departments (deck, engine, and shipboard hotels, in the case of cruise ships) with a dedicated complaints manager assigned as investigator to each group.

In a separate paper to be considered at the upcoming ILO/IMO meeting, ICS emphasised that company policies and initiatives alone would not be enough to address the issue, saying that the maritime sector’s ability to successfully combat harassment and bullying also depends highly on the effectiveness of collaboration between governments, shipowners’ and seafarers’ representatives (unions), including to promote positive cultures on board.

“While shipowners are responsible for implementing shipboard policies and complementary measures to eliminate harassment and bullying from ships, national governments and seafarers’ unions also have important roles to play,” Mr Vicente said. 

“Unions can raise awareness and set expectations for their members, including appropriate deterrents, while all states should review their national civil and criminal codes to verify consistency with requirements of ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention and Violence and Harassment Convention, both of which apply to the maritime sector.”