The UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) have adopted a list of recommendations aimed at protecting seafarers from violence and harassment. 

The recommendations and amendments were proposed during a meeting of the two organisation’s Tripartite Working Group at the IMO headquarters in London, UK, and include steps such as new mandatory training for seafarers. 

IMO Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez said the organisation was committed to creating a safe and respectful working environment for seafarers, saying: “Recognising that this is not only a moral imperative but also a practical necessity for the industry’s sustainable growth, we are committed to preventing and combatting bullying and harassment in the maritime sector.” 

In addition to adopting the recommendations and issuing guidance for shipowners, both the IMO and ILO committed to launching a joint awareness campaign, specifically focusing on issues such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, and bullying. 

The working group also proposed amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 that would see the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention of 2019 (C190) adapted to the maritime industry, with member states given until 10 September 2024 to submit proposals to be discussed at a meeting in April 2025. 

ILO Director-General Gilbert Houngbo said: “This will strengthen the protection against violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault, to ensure seafarers’ right to decent work and increase the attractiveness of the industry.” 

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One of many areas of concern around seafarer protection, the issue of harassment and bullying is still a big part of the maritime industry. 

A study by the Danish Maritime Authority in 2023 found that 17% of seafarers on Danish ships had experienced bullying while 8% had reported a threat of physical violence. 

Additionally, the most recent Seafarers Happiness Index from the Mission to Seafarers charity highlighted incidents of discrimination and “toxic behaviour” as one of the reasons behind a decline in seafarer happiness.

Dominquez, who became Secretary-General for the IMO at the beginning of this year, has also made seafarer protections a key issue for his time in office, highlighting the importance of safety and people as two of his strategic priorities during a press conference in February.