Addressing Violence and Harassment at Sea: A New Horizon for Maritime Safety

In a landmark move, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have joined forces to confront one of the most pressing issues within the maritime sector: violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and sexual assault. This collaboration is a pivotal step towards fostering a safer and more respectful working environment onboard ships around the globe, which we as maritime injury attorneys commend.

The urgency of this initiative was underscored at the recent Joint ILO/IMO Tripartite Working Group (JTWG) meeting, which convened at the IMO headquarters in London from 27 to 29 February 2024. The meeting brought together government representatives, shipowners, and seafarers to deliberate on measures to combat workplace violence and harassment at sea.

A series of comprehensive recommendations have emerged from the meeting, signaling a significant shift towards safeguarding maritime professionals. Central to these recommendations is the proposed alignment of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) with the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190).

Furthermore, the recommendations advocate for mandatory IMO training for seafarers and additional guidance for shipowners, laying down a clear framework for action against workplace violence and harassment.

IMO Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez and ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo have both voiced their unwavering commitment to eradicating workplace violence and harassment. Dominguez emphasized the necessity of a safe and respectful working environment onboard ships, not only as a moral imperative, but also as a cornerstone for the industry’s sustainable growth. Houngbo highlighted the dire consequences of violence and harassment, noting their potential to drive experienced seafarers away and deter newcomers, ultimately contradicting the very concept of decent work.

The inclusion of explicit terminology related to violence and harassment in IMO and ILO instruments and guidance is crucial towards addressing these issues head-on. The emphasis on mandatory training for seafarers, along with the adoption of measures for administrations and shipping companies to remove perpetrators from service, promotes a proactive approach to creating a safer workplace.

The path forward also involves the exploration of data collection methods regarding violence and harassment in the maritime sector. Proposals for amendments to the MLC, 2006, are set to be submitted to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee at its next meeting in May 2024 and to the ILO Governing Body subsequently.

These recommendations from the JTWG meeting represent not just policy changes, but a collective aspiration for a maritime industry where every individual is respected and protected from violence and harassment. This sends a powerful message across the seas: that aggression and disrespect have no place in the future of maritime work.

We at the Herd Law Firm are proud to fight for seamen, maritime workers and passengers in all types of personal injury claims. We never waver in our commitment to help these maritime workers and their families when they are killed or injured.


Image Source: IMO

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