The U.S. Coast Guard provides guidance on how to report instances of sexual misconduct and presents QnA on the subject.
USCG reporting system
harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault. To help facilitate reporting, the Coast Guard has consolidated reporting for all types of sexual misconduct and established multiple reporting options as detailed in the graphic below:hanges to the law require the responsible entity of a vessel to report to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) any complaint or incident of
The reporting options include a CGIS Tips App, and/or the email address [email protected] which can be used by all reporting sources.
The reports, which can be anonymous or for attribution, are received and reviewed by the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS). An investigation will be initiated for all reports received and someone will provide follow-up communications with all reporting sources.
The Coast Guard also maintains a 24/7 watch, which can field reports of sexual misconduct via the National Command Center (NCC) phone number at 202-372-2100.
CGIS will leverage all available resources to immediately initiate a criminal investigation for a sexual crime occurring on a U.S. flagged vessel anywhere in the world.
The Coast Guard will respond to any reports of sexual misconduct with trained investigators and will hold offenders accountable through criminal prosecution and/or actions against U.S. Coast Guard issued merchant mariner credentials (MMCs).
Furthermore, beginning in April 2023, Coast Guard Officers in Charge, Marine Inspections (OCMI) began a year-long education and outreach campaign to maritime industry personnel on the requirements and preferred mechanisms for an individual or responsible entity to file a report.
During these interactions, Coast Guard personnel encountered a series of frequently asked questions, which are provided as follows:
Q1. Who needs to report incidents of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault?
In accordance with Title 46 U.S. Code (U.S.C.) § 10104(a), a responsible entity of a vessel must report to the Coast Guard any complaint or incident of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault that violates employer policy or law.
A “responsible entity” is defined by 46 U.S.C. § 10104(g) as an owner, master, or managing operator of a documented vessel engaged in commercial service or the employer of a mariner on such a vessel.
Q2. How should a responsible entity make a required report?
A responsible entity can make a report to satisfy the reporting requirements of 46 U.S.C. § 10104(a) through the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Tips app, which is available for free download through the App Store or Google Play Store; by emailing the CGIS at [email protected]; or by calling the Coast Guard’s National Command Center (NCC) at 202-372-2100.
The NCC is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A responsible entity that makes a report is also required by 46 U.S.C. § 10104(d) to provide the Coast Guard, within 10 days of the report, a document describing the actions taken after becoming aware of the complaint or incident, including any company investigation and any actions taken against the alleged offending person.
Q3. Can anyone make a report of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault on a commercial vessel?
Yes. The Coast Guard supports the maritime industry’s efforts to create a culture inhospitable to sexual assault, and behaviors that enable it, and eliminate any stigma or retaliation associated with reporting. We strongly support mariners who intervene to prevent sexual misconduct and those who remove barriers to reporting.
Q4. Can survivors make an anonymous report?
An anonymous report can be made through the CGIS Tips app, which is available for free download through the App Store or Google Play Store; by emailing the CGIS at [email protected]; or by calling the Coast Guard’s National Command Center (NCC) at 202-372-2100. The NCC is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, confidential help is also available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673 or via online chat at online.rainn.org.
Q5. How does the Coast Guard conduct investigations when it receives a report?
When the Coast Guard receives a report of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault, the matter is treated with the utmost professionalism and care. Thorough and impartial investigations are promptly initiated, led by trained professionals. For criminal matters, the Coast Guard’s Investigative Service works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
For non-criminal matters, Coast Guard investigators and specialized entities, such as the Coast Guard’s Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise (S&R NCOE), investigate all aspects of the allegation, and when appropriate, pursue administrative enforcement action against the offender’s Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) to ensure accountability.
It is important to note that the “responsible entity of a vessel” must also report the results of their actions taken in response to allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment incidents to the Coast Guard within 10-days of their initial notification. The Coast Guard investigative processes prioritize safety and privacy while employing a comprehensive and systematic approach to assess the situation, gather evidence, and take appropriate enforcement action when feasible.
Q6. What are the Coast Guard’s authorities and roles in the investigation into sexual assaults at sea aboard U.S. commercial vessels? What authorities does the Coast Guard have regarding foreign flagged vessels with foreign crew landing in US ports?
The Coast Guard has authority and jurisdiction to conduct criminal investigations of sexual assaults aboard U.S.-flagged commercial vessels anywhere in the world. The Coast Guard also has the authority and jurisdiction to conduct an administrative Suspension & Revocation investigation for allegations of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault in violation of employer policy or law if the alleged offender holds a Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).
With respect to foreign flagged vessels, the Coast Guard has authority to investigate alleged incidents of sexual misconduct and harassment occurring in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. In certain circumstances, a foreign flagged vessel may be subject to U.S. jurisdiction during a voyage having a scheduled departure from or arrival in the United States with respect to an offense committed by or against a national of the United States.
Q7. Why does the Coast Guard use the term sexual misconduct when the law defines sexual harassment and sexual assault?
The Coast Guard uses the term sexual misconduct, which includes allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, to encourage reporting even if a person is unsure if an incident constitutes sexual harassment or sexual assault. If in doubt about whether an incident meets the reporting requirements, please report it to the Coast Guard.
Q8. The new law does not define harassment. How should a responsible entity know what to report?
Per 46 U.S.C. § 10104(a), a responsible entity must report “any complaint or incident of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault in violation of employer policy or law.” Although sexual assault and sexual harassment are now defined under 46 U.S.C. § 2101, the term “harassment” is not currently defined. As such, a responsible entity should refer to their company anti-harassment policy, procedures, safety management system, or similar document that defines harassment or describes incidents of harassment. In the absence of company policy, responsible entities should use discretion in reporting incidents of harassment.
The Coast Guard encourages all companies to implement a policy against sexual misconduct, harassment, and other enabling behaviors. If in doubt about whether a complaint or incident meets the reporting requirements, please report it to the Coast Guard.
Q9. What video surveillance systems will meet the requirements under 46 U.S.C. § 4901
Title 46 U.S.C. § 4901(c)(2), requires that applicable vessels install video and audio surveillance equipment “in passageways on to which doors from staterooms open. Such equipment must be placed in a manner ensuring the visibility of every door in each such passageway.”
The Coast Guard is considering the best approach to address these requirements as quickly as possible, to include exploring avenues for interim guidance measures until formal guidance is promulgated.
Q10. What does the Coast Guard do to ensure individuals with prior sexual misconduct convictions are not allowed to work as merchant mariners?
The Coast Guard evaluates every mariner for safety and suitability during the mariner credentialing application process and may deny a Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) for sexual misconduct convictions, regardless of whether the underlying crime occurred aboard a vessel. In accordance with 46 U.S.C. § 7511, a mariner who was convicted of certain sexual offenses shall be denied an MMC.
Additionally, if the Transportation Security Administration has revoked a mariner’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) for a disqualifying warrant, indictment, or conviction for rape or aggravated sexual abuse, such mariner is also ineligible to hold an MMC. If the mariner already holds an MMC, the Coast Guard will issue a Suspension & Revocation Complaint seeking revocation of the mariner’s MMC under 46 U.S.C. § 7703(5).
Q11. What is the Coast Guard process for communicating back to companies when a mariner reports an incident of harassment or sexual misconduct directly to the Coast Guard without notifying the reporting entity?
To ensure the safety and privacy of those involved in an investigation and to preserve the integrity of the investigation, the Coast Guard must make case-by-case decisions on when it is appropriate to communicate with the responsible entity or involved company during an investigation.
For alleged harassment and sexual misconduct reports that do not result in a criminal referral and where the victim has requested that the Coast Guard not disclose their identity, Coast Guard investigators will inform the involved company of an administrative suspension & revocation (S&R) investigation under 46 CFR part 5 to facilitate interviews of relevant witnesses and obtain documentary evidence (e.g., logbooks, crew lists company policies).