The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Acting Administrator Lucinda Lessley hosted a virtual, discussion panel titled “Creating Culture Change: From Intent to Action” with leaders from the U.S. Coast Guard, maritime industry, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and mariner and influencer on April 26, 2022 focusing on fostering shipboard culture that promotes fair and dignified treatment of all on board.
“We at DOT are committed to creating an inclusive and supportive culture in the maritime industry,” Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg stated. “For our country to continue reaping the rewards of a strong, safe, well-equipped merchant marine – we need to ensure that that every single person in the industry is treated with dignity and given the opportunity to succeed.”
The culture panel event included three panelists, women leaders with deep experiences in the maritime industry, legal, and safety community. The panelists were:
• Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, Director, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) and Director, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps
• Rear Admiral Melissa Bert, Judge Advocate General & Chief Counsel, U.S. Coast Guard
• Ally Cedeno, Founder of Women Offshore, US Merchant Marine Academy graduate
Each shared their experiences on current challenges within the industry, focusing on avenues to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in a safe way for the next generation of mariners. The most prominent theme discussed around the topic of culture was on transparency – transparency within organizational policies, communication practices, and accountability systems.
“At the Maritime Administration, we believe every maritime industry workplace should be one where essential values of mutual respect and dignity are firmly upheld and where all workers have an equal chance to excel on the basis of their competency and professionalism,” stated Lessley.
The virtual community also had an opportunity to submit questions in advance and in real time to the moderator. Questions focused on the recent Sea Year Pause, additional safety measures on board vessels, and the legal and policy practices that may be used to combat negative cultures onboard vessels at sea.
The panel ended with a firm commitment to defining the type of culture the maritime community desires, agreeing that the first step to move from intent to action is to ensure robust collaboration across the represented organizations, career functions and industries.
MARAD’s commitment to change
MARAD is working several initiatives to create culture change within the industry.
Late last year, at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, MARAD paused the Sea Year training aboard commercial vessels that midshipmen undertake to earn the sea time they need to qualify for the U.S. Coast Guard third-mate and third-engineer licenses.
“To be very clear, we did this so we could strengthen both the measures we require of the vessel operators carrying cadets and also our own institutional policies, procedures, and training instructions to improve safety and support a culture of respect,” Lessley explained.
MARAD also developed a program called “Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture,” or EMBARC to help prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment, to support survivors, and to support a culture of accountability—and carriers must adopt these policies before cadets can embark.
As of April 27, 2022, seven companies have now enrolled in EMBARC — Crowley, OSHI, Keystone, Pasha, PGM, Patriot Contract Services, and the ARC Group. MARAD’s goal is to have all U.S.-flagged carriers that operate vessels that fall under the EMBARC purview be enrolled as quickly as possible.
This panel kick started MARAD’s 2022 celebration of National Maritime Day with a ‘Campaign of Learning’ by hosting three, virtual roundtables that focus on building the best future for the U.S. maritime industry.
The next, two virtual panels will take place on May 23, 2022. The first will explore innovations in maritime technology and future trends in maritime decarbonization.
The concluding panel will highlight MARAD’s commitment to supporting the mariner workforce through our workforce development initiatives, the urgency of supporting mariners, as well as their mental health and welfare efforts.
For additional information on the upcoming panels, and to learn more about National Maritime Day, please visit MARAD’s National Maritime Day page.