Meeting Minutes: COPE° Working group on Psychological Safety and Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Maritime Sector

TUES, 14 FEBRUARY 2023 | 7:00 AM EST

1) Welcome and Introduction

Proposed new members.

There were no objections to the submission of these new members, therefore everyone is very much welcomed to participate and to become a member of the COPE° working group.

2) Activities and Scope of Work

a) Review and amend existing IMO Model Course 1.21 PSSR & Evaluate and provide training options

The IMO Sub- committee on Human Element Training and Watchkeeping – HTW9 took place from 6 February to 10 February in London.

Eva provided a summary of what happened that week. And provided updates regarding the following:

Summary of HTW9
The tenth session of the HTW Sub-Committee took place form 6-10 February 2023. For this session, three documents were submitted with proposals on training provisions on psychological safety, bullying and SASH. A document from South Korea contained ‘a review of the amendment to the STCW Convention: provisions on human rights training including bullying, sexual assault and harassment prevention’. A document submitted by the USA proposed ‘mandatory training provisions to address the prevention, awareness, bystander intervention, reporting and response to bullying and harassment including sexual assault and sexual harassment’.

And the document our group worked on: a document submitted by Dominica, Bahamas, Brazil, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, Viet Nam, Abuja MoU, OCIMF, IFSMA, InterManager, IMHA and WISTA International proposed training provisions on psychological safety addressing bullying, sexual assault and harassment in the maritime sector. Document HTW9/7/8, proposed amendments to the STCW Code, table A-VI/1-4, provided in annex 1 to the document. The document also highlighted the critical issue of training provisions on psychological safety, to address bullying and sexual assault and harassment in the maritime sector.

The amendments focused on including specific content to establish appropriate maritime workplace behavioral norms and essential human elements of overall psychological safety on board vessels and, indeed, in all aspects of the maritime industry.

The initiative was taken after the publication of some of the worst reports on human rights violations at sea that our industry has learned about in decades. It brought to light the tip of the iceberg, a wicked problem, that is invisible for most and seems to be normalized within the maritime sector and on board of ships: a trend that demonstrates a serious lack of psychological safety.

Improving education, knowledge and understanding on psychological safety has an immediate effect on seafarers’ mental and physical well-being. This will, in turn, augment onboard operational safety, security and environmental protection.

What was agreed upon during the HTW9 Sub-Committee:
(conclusions from the final report of the meeting)

  • The inclusion of new competencies for all seafarers relating to bullying and harassment, including SASH, under table A-VI/1-4 of the STCW Code, should be prioritized at this session and would form the legal basis for a revision of Model Course 1.21. At a later stage during the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code, other related matters could be addressed.
  • Taking into account that short-term educational interventions might not be able to change attitude and behavior, consideration should be given, at a later stage, to the need for amending the ISM Code to require companies to address bullying and harassment, including SASH, under their Safety Management Systems, as well as other instruments such as the FAL Convention.
  • In order to have the amendments adopted at MSC 108 (May 2024), the amendments needed to be approved at MSC 107 (June 2023). Noting that JTWG, which was scheduled to be held at the end of 2023, was planned to consider this matter, as instructed by MSC 105. In this connection, MSC 107 should be requested to authorize JTWG to send their comments directly to MSC 108. Another option would be to have the comments of JTWG considered at HTW 10 (February 2024), after which HTW 10 would report to MSC 108.

Proposals and decisions during plenary on Friday (still to be included in the final report of HTW9).

Since the importance and priority of the matter, the sub-committee decided to set up an informal, intersessional drafting group/correspondence group. This group is going to work on providing the new competences on psychological safety, as part of the comprehensive review of the STCW for submission to HTW10. (Chair: Sweden). The amendments need to be approved at MSC 108 (May 2024) and adopted at MSC 109.

During the HTW9 Working Group that worked on the amendments of the STCW Code, table A-VI/1-4, it was decided a new and separate competence should be developed on psychological safety specifically. The first draft for this work is shared below, for your information:

Table A-VI/1-4

Specification of minimum standard of competence in personal safety and social responsibilities

NEMO° Psychological Safety course
The work we did last year, amending Model Course 1.21 on PSSR can be used as a basis for further work and developing training material. Which will be freely available for all.

We will start building curriculum on NEMO° Psychological Safety course. Goal is to focus on psychological safety, bullying and SASH build course around these subjects, (use additional time suggested).

  1. Formulate outcomes and objectives. Material and documents to formulate.
  2. Set up and share the NEMO° course template.
  3. Build the course and work collectively.
  4. Test course with students, provide it on NEMO°.

We will move this work into a new sub-group.
Everyone who is willing to contribute or participate in this work is kindly invited.

IMO = International Maritime Organization
ILO = International Labour Organization
HTW = Human element Training and Watchkeeping
JTWG = Joint ILO/IMO Working Group
STCW = Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping
ISM Code = International Safety Management Code
FAL = Facilitation Committee
PSSR = Personal Safety and Social Responsibility

b) Awareness and response

Output and information from the group, that is relevant for mariners and other maritime professionals, will be shared online by means of different channels. The working group will be open to hear the voice of the industry and take information into consideration.

The next The COPE° Podcast episode will be recorded and posted, so it will become a bit more structured and have a more professional look & feel.

  • Please find all previous episodes, including the new ones, HERE.
  • Everyone is welcomed and invited to participate in these podcasts.
  • Nancy Karigithu will be on the next podcast episode with us.
  • MIWB students from Welmoed her class, reviewed the podcast episodes and had some great feedback.
  • Hannah and Eva will work on developing and improving the podcast. We will transfer it to the Maritime Matters Podcast, provide more structure and make it look more professional.
  • Students from Gillian’s class will also review the podcast episodes.

c) Data Collection, Output and Harmonization

Next meeting of this sub-group will be planned in March 2023, we will follow up with tasks and actions discussed in the previous meeting of this sub-group:

Tasks and actions:

  1. Create a safe data/governance structure.
  2. Everyone is invited to update the literature and resources list.
  3. Update the COPE° website with a resource database.
  4. How do we create a data consortium, start dialogue, sharing ideas and views.
  5. Follow up about possible interviews amongst IMU members to ask whether there is a need for education with regards to psychological safety and DEIA relating matters.

COPE data resources

Collect and maintain a list of bibliography, research, articles, guidances and other open access documents. In time we can categorize and divide types of resources. We can also look into the ‘Maritime Lab’ initiative.

Since the data is sensitive, with collecting and sharing data, we have to be aware of: ethical clearance, data protection, data governance, etc. We want data to inform our decisions.

Research gap
Do MET institutions actually teach the subjects around psychological safety, diversity, equity, inclusion and/or have experience with bullying, SASH in the maritime sector. Check interest in this kind of education. How large is the need, and support base? Momoko offered to use her IMU network, do interviews with member universities. We could also include GlobalMET. Sailors Society.

d) Reporting mechanisms and accountability

Next meeting of this sub-group will be planned in March 2023, we will follow up with tasks and actions discussed in the previous meeting of this sub-group:

Tasks and actions:

  1. Focus on responsibility and accountability of flagstates, maritime authorities, companies, etc.
  2. Proposal to IMO for statistics.
  3. What are the different reporting mechanisms that are used right now?
  4. Ask Global Maritime Forum about Pinkwashing.

Goals and topics:

  • How can we lift the cover that surrounds bullying and SASH in the maritime sector? (remove the sugarcoat, stop the gaslighting)
  • Have a structure that is transparent, have a reporting mechanism that is unified and clear. So people can be safe (as a basis).
  • Investigate if it is possible to gain IMO statistics on incidents for sexual harassment/bullying etc if recorded. Work on a proposal/request for IMO statistics. Potential to reach out to countries through IMO. Requires additional planning.
  • Need for guidance to shipping companies on policies. Use information that is collected by Universities (MET).
  • What are the policies of portstates, flagstates and companies. How long does it take for them to investigate?
  • ISWAN collects data from seafarers through their helplines (it is not the primary purpose and sometimes misses information). ISWAN is focusing and developing a program to collect data as a totality. Goal is to create actionable recommendations for the industry. Find ways to show and share what seafarers are facing.
  • Happiness Index: Ask if they can add questions about bullying and SASH?
  • Inform and push the need for ‘psychological safety’ at the commercial drivers, companies and other stakeholders.
  • Discussions about speak up culture, allyship, safeguarding. Including ISO standards, etc.

3) Any other business

Information about the The Center for Ocean Policy and Economics, support for the candidacy of Ambassador Nancy Karigithu to become the next Secretary General of IMO:

Dear members of the working group,
In my previous email regarding the meeting minutes of 17 January 2023, I attached the press release on “IMO SG Candidate Support Nancy Karigithu – from The Center for Ocean Policy and Economics”.
For clarity, please note that the support for the candidacy of Ambassador Karigithu is from the Center for Ocean Policy and Economics – COPE°, and not the COPE° working group on “psychological safety, bullying and SASH in the maritime sector”.
I hope to have informed you sufficiently.

Best Regards,
Eva Lianne Veldkamp
College of Maritime Science

4) Next Meeting

Proposed future meeting days:
The next meetings of the COPE° Working group (main group):
To  be determined

Meeting on HTW9 preparations:
To  be determined

The next meeting of the Sub-Group on Data Collection, Output and Harmonization
To be determined

The next meeting of the Sub-Group on Reporting mechanisms and accountability
To be determined

List of Members and Participants

The members and participants of the COPE° Working group on Bullying, Psychological Safety and Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Maritime Sector can be found in the Position Paper HERE.

Terms of Reference

The COPE° Working group on Psychological Safety and Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Maritime Sector is hosted by Center for Ocean Policy and Economics, a subset of The Northeast Maritime Institute – College of Maritime Science. COPE° facilitates committed maritime government, non-government, corporate, education, science and technology experts and partners to collaborate and create drivers for change. Members of the working group will be sharing information, ideas, learnings and pooling resources in order to work on:

  1. developing and delivering relevant actions and impactful solutions
  2. drivers for change, in order to tackle the wicked problems present in our world today
  3. solutions to build on an international UN framework to connect the industry to objectives.

The work the COPE° working group will be driven by ethical and humanitarian based values, taking into account:

  1. building on a psychologically safe workplace culture in the maritime sector
  2. the successful integration of vulnerable and marginalized groups, in support of diversity, equality, equity, inclusion and acceptance
  3. the issues relating to sexual assault, harassment and bullying in the maritime sector
  4. transparency and integrity
  5. supporting and honoring mariners globally