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17% of seafarers are victims of bullying and harassment - survey

Andreas Nordseth from DMA speaking at Crew Connect
A survey by the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) has exposed the full extent of bullying and harassment of seafarers onboard vessels.

Andreas Nordseth, Director General of the DMA, presented findings from a survey conducted with seafarers onboard Danish-flagged ships at Seatrade Maritime Crew Connect 2023 on Tuesday.

The survey sent to over 16,000 seafarers and the DMA received 3,470 responses. Of the respondents 17% reported having been the victim of bullying within the last 12 months.

While the survey shows what has been happening on Danish-flagged ships it reveals the scale of an industry wide problem that while talked about anecdotally has been hard to quantify. OSM Thome Chief Commercial Officer and President Tommy Olofsen, who is chairing the conference, noted it didn’t just represent what was happening in the Danish fleet and similar results were being seen by other surveys.

Perhaps not surprisingly young and inexperienced seafarers were found to be bearing the brunt of the bullying and harassment. Bullying came from peers while harassment is from those above in more senior positions.

While the initial driver of the Danish survey was sexual harassment in the industry the survey delved into all kinds of bullying and harassment. The single largest factor that bullying and harassment was related to was race, which was reported by 21%, religion or faith and cultural background both accounted for 10% each, 14% gender, 7% sexual orientation, and 66% were other factors such as weight or wearing glasses for example.

Women were found to have a much higher exposure to sexual harassment than men, although in terms of absolute numbers the results were the same, however, there are far more male than female seafarers.

The question for the Danish authorities is what should they do about the situation. Nordseth said this could come in two forms – enforcement and education – which the authority is discussing at the moment.

On the education front there will be campaigns, information and training. On the enforcement side he said they were still discussing what kind of sanctions to have. Sanctions could come not just from the authorities but also from companies who could dismiss anyone caught for harassment.

In terms of action by the DMA itself it is expected to be agreed and made public by early next year.