Maersk Line, Limited was hit with two lawsuits claiming that it failed to protect US Merchant Marine Academy mishipmen from sexual assault and harrassment, according to the law firm representing two victims.
“Midshipman-X” after she anonymously shared her story about how she was raped by her superior on board a Maersk Line, Limited during her Sea Year training in 2019. The second lawsuit is the process of being refiled due to a procedural issue.ne of the victims was known as
The complaints allege that Maersk failed to adequately protect U.S. Merchant Marine Academy midshipmen from sexual assault and sexual harassment while working aboard Maersk ships as part of the USMMA’s “Sea Year” program.
The first complaint was filed on behalf of Hope Hicks, a current USMMA student. Ms. Hicks shared how she was raped by her superior officer while serving as an engine cadet aboard a Maersk cargo ship.
Hicks’ complaint alleges she was the only woman aboard the Maersk vessel during her Sea Year in 2019 and that, while on board, she was raped by one of the ship’s top-ranking officers.
As Ms. Hicks explained, she confronted the officer, but was told no one would believe her if she made a report. She now says that she suffers from severe and ongoing emotional distress as a result.
The second complaint was filed on behalf of another USMMA student who goes by the moniker “Midshipman-Y”. As the complaint says, Midshipman-Y was severely sexually harassed aboard a Maersk ship during her Sea Year, and she slept clutching a knife for protection.
Midshipman-Y’s complaint claims that she experienced extreme sexual harassment, unwanted touching and discrimination while on board the same Maersk vessel two years later.
In addition, although crewmembers and officers were allegedly aware of the harassment, no one intervened or reported the misconduct. The complaint further alleges that Midshipman-Y was treated less favorably than male crewmembers on account of her gender.
According to both complaints, filed by the law firm Sanfor Heisler Sharp, Maersk was aware of the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment on its ships.
After the reveal of the incidents, Maersk suspended five employees. As the chief executive officer Bill Woodhour of Maersk Line, Limited said in a statement:
We do everything we can to ensure that all of our workplace environments, including vessels, are a safe and welcoming workplace and we’ve launched a top to bottom investigation
However, the complaint further alleges that Maersk was also complacent about its sexual assault and harassment prevention duties even after the 2016 temporary suspension of the Sea Year program.
After the publication of Midshipman-X’s story, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg temporarily suspended the Sea Year program in November 2021, reinstating the program about a month later.