Harassment and Bullying at Sea

For some seafarers there are challenges at sea which go beyond even the usual hardships of being away from home, working hard and facing all that the sea can throw at them.

There are seafarers who face problems from those they live and work with onboard. Unfortunately, and it is incredibly sad to report, but harassment, racism, sexism and bullying do occur at sea.

Thankfully the percentage of seafarers who said that they were on the receiving end was comparatively low. Though of course it is likely that is the very tip of the iceberg. Those who have been brave enough to speak out are likely to experience the same as many others who feel compelled to silence.


The shipping industry has not yet done a great job of attracting females to the sea, and there are many high profile and wonderful campaigns to do so. However, in the face of the attempts to have more women seafarers, we have reported that those who spoke to us did experience negatives.

We heard from women who had been harassed, and who felt their career development was being held back because of their gender. Obviously, these reports are one-sided, but their evidence certainly sounded compelling, brutally honest and worryingly true.

Women seafarers were made to feel uncomfortable with provocative comments, and lewd suggestions. Now, of course, there are some that might say that this is joking, the locker-room banter of the sea. However, that isn’t good enough. To ensure that women want to go to sea, then thrive in their careers, we need a cultural shift which may still allow joking, but which never threatens, demeans or undermines.


Seafarers, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality deserve the same sense of belonging as all other people at sea. There is already a rank and department system, surely there are enough jokes there without straying into dangerous territory.

It was not just female seafarers who expressed sadness, dismay and concern. We heard from those who were sailing with crews of different nationality, race and religion – and sadly, they too reported bullying and harassment.

Shipping is an international business, it is universal across the globe and ubiquitous – there is a long and proud history of tolerance, understanding and of the community of seafarers being blind to differences, as people are united by the sea. We need to ensure that this view prevails and that seafarers do not suffer prejudice, instead feel camaraderie, companionship and pride in a multicultural workplace which delivers for all.


#28Days #Seafarers #Shipping Also check out the Mission to Seafarers website to learn more that the charity does to address many of the issues raised across these challenges facing shipping. https://www.missiontoseafarers.org/

The Seafarers Happiness Index needs the support of those at sea, and of the shipping industry. So if you would like to be a part of driving positive debate and change – complete the survey or share your thoughts with us. https://www.happyatsea.org/survey

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