A study by the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) has found that just under one-sixth of maritime workers on Danish ships have experienced bullying in the workplace, highlighting major challenges around harassment in the maritime industry. 

The survey, conducted for the DMA by the University of Southern Denmark’s Centre for Maritime Health and Society, collected responses from almost 3,500 seafarers and found that gender, race and cultural background were all factors in the bullying experienced by respondents. 

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This is a serious problem that the industry needs to address

It reported that 17% of respondents had experienced bullying, while 11% said they had been exposed to harassment while at work, with younger and less experienced seafarers more likely to suffer from the issues. 

Morten Bødskov, Denmark’s Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, the department that requested the research, described the findings as “completely unacceptable” and said he was surprised by the extent of the issue.  

Bødskov said: “This is a serious problem that the industry partners need to address immediately. More must be done to ensure that seafarers on board Danish ships don’t have to fear harassment and bullying, neither on the basis of gender or ethnicity. 

“Therefore, I have asked the Danish Maritime Authority to engage in dialogue with the industry partners to find the measures that can ensure a safe working environment both in the short and long term.” 

Among the concerning data found in the survey is the 8% of seafarers who reported experiencing the threat of physical violence and the 2% who had suffered from actual violence, with junior employees again more likely to have suffered from the issue and senior officers most likely to have been responsible for the threat or violence. 

Following the publication of the results, the DMA will deliver a proposal for solutions in collaboration with industry partners before the end of 2023. 

The DMA’s report comes as the Mission to Seafarers charity has found that the overall happiness of seafarers has been declining through 2023, going from an overall rating of 7.1/10 in Q1 2023 to 6.77/10 in Q2, both down on the 7.69/10 seen at the end of 2022.