Namely, as the Club informs, three changes have been made:

  • The latest version of the guidance on eliminating shipboard harassment and bullying is to be taken into account (jointly published by the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Worker’s Federation).
  • In addition to the various health and safety matters,‘harassment and bullying’ has now been taken into account for the various health and safety matters of the MLC.
  • To the list of matters which should be considered for investigation in a health and safety context,‘problems arising from harassment and bullying’ has been added. Seafaring has long been considered a tough occupation due to the masculine nature of the profession and the rough conditions that prevail at sea.

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According to a Sailors’ Society report in 2016, out of a study of more than 1,000 seafarers, 25% have experienced depressive symptoms over a two week period, while 45% did not ask for help.

What is more, over the past decade, considerable observed evidence reports that workplace harassment and bullying are prevalent and take place much more frequently than presumed. This, however, tends to be under reported. In fact, 35 to 50% of American employees have experienced bullying at some point in their working life, with bullying at sea being no exception.

Regarding the definition of harassment, it includes any inappropriate and unwelcome conduct, which, whether intentionally or not, creates feelings of unease, humiliation, embarrassment or discomfort for the recipient.

Bullying is a particular form of harassment that includes hostile or vindictive behaviour, which can cause the recipient to feel threatened or intimidated. Bullying has a various behaviours, not limited to but including:

  • Making verbal or physical threats;
  • Making derogatory remarks;
  • Ridiculing or belittling a person;
  • Spreading rumors;
  • Being over critical even about minor mistakes;
  • Making remarks about a person’s religion, race, colour or nationality;
  • Making hostile or personally intrusive telephone calls, emails or letters;
  • Making unreasonable demands;
  • Threatening another person about their job security;
  • Losing temper for trivial reasons;
  • Physically intimidating another person;
  • Assigning menial or demeaning tasks that are not appropriate to the job;
  • Using sarcasm or making jokes that hurt another person;
  • Cyber harassment/bullying by use of technology.

In order to tackle this issue, companies and management can be the main active agents of change by adopting a zero tolerance approach to dealing with bullying and harassment at sea. This can be achieved by:

  • Establishing clear policies and procedures for dealing with harassment and bullying onboard;
  • Disseminating company’s policies regarding harassment to everyone onboard (in native language of crew members);
  • Organising ongoing awareness programs, training sessions, campaigns, videos, conferences and other media;
  • Establishing channels of reporting and actions to be taken when a complaint is filed;
  • Ensuring privacy and confidentiality to encourage disclosure;
  • Establishing clear job roles, and expectations and responsibilities;
  • Investing in ongoing trainings;
  • Applying fair and transparent processes for allocating tasks, job roles, etc.;
  • Educating everyone for early warning signs: when a seafarer looks sad, lonely, scared, isolated, not motivated, low performance, complains of physical symptoms, avoids social interactions, etc.;
  • Implementing emotional intelligence programs to encourage self-awareness, social awareness and conflict resolution.Team building sessions, inspirational leadership trainings and cultural diversity working groups;
  • Organising activities to encourage social interactions onboard.

In conclusion, the UK Club notes that awareness campaigns, guidelines and practices can reduce incidents by setting out strict regulations against bullying. Helping people come forward and disclose incidents is also encouraged.

What is more, alternative approaches that could be considered include the implementation of emotional intelligence, leadership, cultural diversity intelligence programmes that have already been applied in school or work settings with outstanding results.

See further information in the PDF below