Sexual assault and harassment in the maritime environment pose significant risks to the safety and well-being of seafarers and to the safety of the vessel itself because of detrimental effects on the health, safety, and performance of seafarers. These adverse effects include declining seafarers’ mental health, safety and well-being, with subsequent negative effects on recruitment and attrition rates of seafarers. The IMO has recognized the importance of developing a maritime workplace culture that is safe and inclusive for all seafarers and maritime professionals as a means of improving operational safety and security in the maritime industry.
Safety and welfare of seafarers is a shared responsibility between IMO and ILO. During the 105th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee, members agreed to the establishment of an IMO/ILO joint group to consider bullying and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual assault and sexual harassment, taking into account information submitted by interested parties, with a view to providing recommendations for future steps, including the development of legislation, mechanisms and policies, and the launching of awareness campaigns by relevant stakeholders, aimed at reporting and addressing these matters.
In the next meeting of the HTW subcommittee, amendments to the STCW Convention will be developed to address bullying and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual assault and sexual harassment as a matter of priority. Changes to any existing model course will follow after the amendments to the Convention are developed.
By changing the maritime culture and encouraging Member States to implement mechanisms and adopt relevant policies and legislation to protect seafarers, the IMO is making every effort to tackle these issues and take corrective actions against unacceptable behavior and practices of this nature.