ICS ITF Guidance on eliminating shipboard harassment bullying

All seafarers have the right to work without suffering harassment and bullying. Unfortunately, however, there are seafarers that are victims of harassment and bullying on board ships. It is the responsibility of:

  • Shipping companies to ensure that policies are in place for the elimination of all forms of harassment and bullying of seafarers on board their ships; and
  • Seafarers’ organisations and seafarers to ensure that harassment and bullying do not take place.

Shipping companies and seafarers’ organisations are committed to producing materials to draw attention to the issues and to highlight potential actions to resolve these.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) consider harassment and bullying to be unacceptable and have together produced the following guidance for shipping companies, seafarers and seafarers’ organisations and other parties, including training providers, on what they can do to eliminate harassment and bullying. If any seafarer complains of having been the victim of harassment and/or bullying, complaints must be taken seriously and investigated.

Harassment and bullying are examples of conduct that is unwanted and causes detrimental effects, which may include:

  • Stress;
  • Lack of motivation;
  • Reduced work performance;
  • Absence from duties; and
  • Resignations.

Harassment includes any inappropriate and unwelcome conduct which, whether intentionally or not, creates feelings of unease, humiliation, embarrassment or discomfort for the recipient.

Bullying is a particular form of harassment that includes hostile or vindictive behaviour, which can cause the recipient to feel threatened or intimidated.

In some cases, those committing acts of harassment and bullying do so intentionally. However, there are also actions which can be classed as harassment and/or bullying that occur unwittingly, rather than as a result of any deliberate malign intention. Hence the adoption and encouragement of management styles that do not involve aggressive and intimidating behaviours would also make an important contribution to the eradication of workplace harassment and bullying.

For companies, there are also strong legal and economic reasons for eliminating harassment and bullying:

  • It is a matter of good employment practice to foster a working environment in which seafarers can work free of harassment and bullying;
  • Seafarers who suffer harassment and bullying can feel demotivated and are more likely to suffer from stress leading to absence from duties;
  •  They are also more likely to want to leave their employment, resulting in additional recruitment expenses for the company; and
  • Some employees who have suffered harassment have brought successful claims of discrimination.