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Education and training

Nautilus raises member concerns at first Cadet Welfare Group meeting

13 December 2023

Nautilus has pushed regulators on key topics of concern for cadets, at the first meeting of the UK's Cadet Welfare Group.

The group – which was launched by then-maritime minister Baroness Vere in October 2023 – is made up of representatives from Nautilus International, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), and the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB). Its remit is to ensure sponsoring and training companies provide adequate support, training and safe working conditions at all times when onboard and investigate cadet health and safety issues as and when they arise.

War, sea time and harassment

Cadet organiser Rachel Lynch and head of professional and technical David Appleton brought forward concerns direct from Nautilus members.

Regarding sea time, Ms Lynch informed the MCA and MNTB about companies which are still failing to provide berths for cadets, despite assurances from the training management companies, that the situation would improve.

There were also discussions about the situation in the Red Sea, as Yemeni forces have attacked the vessels of Israeli-linked companies, and the actions that should be taken to ensure cadets' safety whilst still enabling them to get the necessary sea time.

Finally, Nautilus told the group that it is receiving an increasing number of reports of harassment and discrimination from female and LGBT+ cadets, especially from those on vessels where the crew are only from one or two countries where attitudes to having people from these groups onboard are hostile. Our representatives told the MCA and MNTB about a particularly dangerous case in November/December 2023 to illustrate the point.

The Union's representatives have begun to float the idea that UK cadets are likely to be safer on vessels with a more multinational crew that is likely to be more inclusive and accepting of different cultures.

An opportunity to act

'We are now routinely taking problems highlighted by our cadets members to the group', said Ms Lynch. 'We are hopeful that positive changes will follow for our members by highlighting the issues to the industry bodies who have the power to make changes and improve the cadet experience. It’s now on them to act.'

Ask the expert – harassment and cadet welfare support

Q: I'm at sea right now. I’ve been dealing with harassment but now things have gone too far, what should I do?

A: The first thing to know is that you are not alone.

Sadly, this situation is all too common. Abuse and harassment can be experienced by anyone at sea, whatever their sex, race or sexuality. Female cadets and LGBT+ cadets do face particular issues, especially when onboard vessels with crews from countries with different cultural attitudes.

To improve the situation, Nautilus has been bringing up serious cases with the new Cadet Welfare Group to push regulators to improve the situation.

If you experience any kind of bullying or harassment, it is also a good idea to make a note of any incidents, including the time, date and the names of any witnesses, as well as anything you said to the bully or harasser and your emotional state (it is important to be clear about how someone's behaviour made you feel, so it can't be passed off as a joke).

However, the best thing you can do is contact Nautilus, as your trade union. We can provide advice and support on your specific situation.

Bullying and harassment is a problem which rarely goes away by itself, so if you are being bullied or harassed, it is best to take action. However, sometimes this action (such as informing your training officer or the captain) does not resolve the situation. We'll be able to assist you if this occurs, and we can use our connections to bring in other authorities to help you.

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