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Ending bullying and harassment for all seafarers

15 March 2024

From 27 to 29 February, I was the seafarers' spokesperson at a meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Joint Tripartite Working Group, providing input on bullying and harassment issues as a social partner.

Nautilus joined with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and other trade unions from around the world to form a united front in discussions with shipowners and governments.

As a result of this meeting, important steps forward for our members and all seafarers have been identified to combat bullying, harassment, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Achievements to build upon

Our industry is one in which everyone should feel able to enjoy a career without the fear of these behaviours. However, there are unique challenges to achieving this for maritime professionals.

Trade unions representing seafarers have worked on this topic for some time.

Indeed, Nautilus International and the UK Chamber of Shipping began the work on this issue, which then led to the European social partners ETF and ECSA adopting guidelines on the eradication of shipboard harassment and bullying. This was adapted by the International Chamber of Shipping and the ITF and went on to be referenced in the Maritime Labour Convention.

More recently, we have seen the adoption of the ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 on Violence and Harassment, the culmination of years of campaigning and lobbying by trade unions, which also recognises that some workers are disproportionately affected.

By adopting these international standards, worker and employer organisations alongside ILO member states have made it clear that violence and harassment in the world of work can no longer be tolerated.

Progress for seafarers

This meeting came up with proposals for a collaborative approach in both the IMO – looking at instruments such as STCW and at the ISM Code – and at ILO with conventions such as the MLC. They will help us to build on the work that has been done, developing reviewed, revised, and possibly new ways of ensuring a zerotolerance environment for the behaviours that were discussed.

This will positively impact the working and living environments of those vulnerable to these types of behaviours – underrepresented groups including women and LGBT+ seafarers, for example – but importantly, this work will positively impact the working and living environments of all seafarers.

The meeting also emphasised the necessity of social dialogue, social partnership and tripartism. We will need the participation of unions like Nautilus, government and industry to maintain the safe, equitable and human-centred industry of the future – key elements of the Just Transition, where we hope to ensure decent work, leaving no-one behind.


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