The following letter dated October 26 was signed by the presidents of seven U.S. seagoing unions.
As you know, our industry recently made unwanted headlines due to allegations of sexual assault and alcohol consumption aboard an American-flag vessel. We take the incident with utmost seriousness, but, regardless of how that particular case plays out, the undersigned unions - who represent the majority of deep-sea U.S. mariners - are taking this opportunity to reinforce our collective commitment to helping ensure that all seafarers have a safe workplace free of fear, harassment, bullying and any kind of assault. We are in the process of thoroughly but quickly re-examining and, where warranted, updating policies and practices that will facilitate education, protection and mutual respect within the ranks of our memberships and throughout the industry.
Turning a blind eye is not acceptable. All seafarers must be committed to active opposition to any type of harassment, bullying or discriminatory behavior. It is our collective duty to protect and respect our shipmates. As maritime professionals and decent human beings, we must look out for one another.
When a mariner experiences or observes harassment, bullying or discriminatory behavior, the alarm must go off. Such conduct must immediately be stopped and/or reported. The hierarchy aboard ship, the power relationship inherent in that structure and the closed shipboard environment can become coercive. Mariners must not be compelled to endure an unsafe workplace for the sake of their paychecks, careers, or reputations.
Each of our organizations is committed to ensuring the safety and fair treatment of every member. Realizing we are dealing with a social problem that can be magnified aboard ship, every member must share the commitment to speak out and act when they observe shipboard bullying, harassment, discrimination, or assault.
We know that our members are professionals, and that the overwhelming majority of U.S. Merchant Mariners are decent folks who work hard to make a living in a unique industry. We are often in leadership positions aboard ship. Our personal example and insistence on the safety and respectful treatment of our shipmates is the essence of leadership. Whatever the rating, experience, or qualifications, a good shipmate protects their co-workers and does not tolerate any forms of abuse.