COPE° Attends the 23rd Session of APHoMSA

by Eva Lianne Veldkamp

The Center for Ocean Policy & Economics (COPE°) was invited by the Australian Maritime Administration to attend the 23rd session of the Asia-Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies (APHoMSA) forum, hosted in Sydney, Australia, from 5 to 8 June 2023.

During the forum, 26 countries were represented: Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, United States of America, Vietnam and Vanuatu. Nine observer organisations were also represented: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Seafarer Excellence Network (APEC SEN); the International Maritime Organization (IMO); the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO); the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC); the Pacific Community (SPC); the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Tokyo MoU), the Center for Ocean Policy and Economics (COPE°), the Pacific Islands Maritime Association (PacMA), and the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA Australia).

Covering half of the globe, the Asia-Pacific is the largest maritime region. While the lives and perspectives of people living near the Pacific Ocean is very specific, especially for those living on the many small islands in the Pacific, almost all of the topics that were discussed during the forum were of issues that concern us all.

Throughout the agenda items on ‘Women in Maritime’ and ‘Safety and Wellbeing of Seafarers,’ there was a lot of constructive dialogue on the importance of psychological safety in the maritime sector. The COPE° paper that was submitted to the forum under these agenda items resonated with many other delegations. The negative consequences that people face when simply being their authentic selves in their workplace indicates a lack of psychological safety.

Discussions were had around the need for people to feel safe and confident to speak up, share ideas, give honest feedback and communicate. The COPE° paper pointed out the importance of ‘Allyship’ – using your voice to speak up for others – especially in helping a minority. “When we can make it safe for everyone, we can get the people on board who know what to do, to take care of themselves, each other, the ship and the sea. And build maritime workforce globally, that is safe enough to be inclusive and diverse,” said Eva Lianne Veldkamp of COPE°.

The USA delegation shared information about a campaign to report sexual misconduct in the maritime sector, inviting all members of the forum to aggressively pursue acceptance of reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault (SASH) from mariners. “Barriers to reporting contribute to the problem of SASH because they limit the number of cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment reported to the authorities and allow perpetrators to avoid accountability.” Members of the forum supported and applauded this important campaign and noted the fear of reporting. Not only is there generally a high level of shame and fear that comes with vulnerability, but different cultural, social and personal aspects complicate these issues even further.

Other documents submitted under the ‘Women in Maritime’ agenda item provided useful information and resources, wonderful ideas for improvements and thought provoking suggestions. WISTA Australia submitted an informative paper with valuable resources and toolkits for companies to use to provide diverse and inclusive working environments and teams. Potential solutions to create a working environment that is safe, inclusive, diverse and equal for everyone in maritime have been put forward, especially to address the many challenges faced by women in the industry. To provide potential solutions, it is important to understand the gravity of the problems and challenges within the industry, and to understand that programs and solutions must be implemented with care and oversight.

One delegation of a small Pacific Island shared the experiences of a program that was initiated several years ago to promote maritime careers for women. It enabled three enthusiastic young women to become licensed mariners. Upon completion of their educations, they began work on a cruise ship. Unfortunately, the program turned out to be a tragedy. Two of the three women returned home pregnant and alone, with the third committing suicide. The program was terminated immediately.

The tragic story emphasizes the lack of, and need for, psychological safety on board ships and in the maritime sector. The COPE° paper noted that the absence of psychological safety is a root cause of bullying, assault and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual assault and sexual harassment. It describes that feeling unsafe within one’s workplace is an invisible and underrated safety issue, and is something that has become normalized in the maritime sector and on board ships.

Discussions were also had about the need for mandatory training provisions on these issues, noting the great work that already has been taken forward by IMO as part of the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code. There was also agreement amongst delegations to work on establishing international mechanisms, policies and measures to respond to, and resolve, cases of abuse, bullying and SASH.

In general, an optimistic understanding amongst all delegations indicated that there is a great willingness to use the severe challenges faced as opportunities for improvement. The forum decided to set up a correspondence group to work on agreements requiring action. In the upcoming period, this group is going to work on setting up a strategic plan on promoting women in maritime, developing leadership programs, creating a survey questionnaire to collect data on gender based issues on board of ships and on obtaining funding.

To summarize discussions under the agenda item of ‘Women in Maritime,’ Mr. Mick Kinley – CEO of the Australian Maritime Administration and Chair of the forum stated: “I think that we can all conclude to agree that psychological safety should be a basic human right.”

Another item on the agenda of the forum was ‘Marine Environment Protection and Maritime Incident response.’ There were several requests for cooperation and lessons learned shared by members of the forum. A number of marine incidents and SAR experiences were also shared and discussed. Several governments shared experiences and there was a great willingness for further collaboration across the Asia-Pacific.

Small Pacific Islands shared information about marine incidents which resulted in marine pollution. A big concern that was expressed was the lack of capacity to prosecute and compensate liability, clean up after pollution, remove wrecks and establish costs for use of assets needed to solve disasters. Statements were made about the need to hold shipowners and the maritime industry responsible for the damage on the ocean and the environment. Discussions were had around the idea that by making insurance costs public, those figures could provide helpful insight into the importance of investing to prevent incidents and marine disasters.

IMO shared information on the development of a new program and training course on marine incident investigations, which will be based on the work that is done by the relevant sub-committee (III) and the reports that are submitted by IMO Member States to GSIS. Australia noted a paper that was submitted to the IMO Legal Committee about updating liability limits in this regard, which seems to have received little support until now.

The forum provided a space for delegations to share information on sustainability development planning and the implications this has on maritime safety. Arrangements for vessel traffic services, aids of navigation and cooperation with government bodies to ensure safe and secure maritime traffic were also topics that made for engaging discussions. Offshore wind parks and other offshore developments such as seaweed farming and space launch operations require specific solutions that have yet to be discovered. Several delegations expressed a big need for information on how to handle situations at sea regarding innovative developments. Countries such as the USA, New Zealand, Canada and Australia are generally looking to Europe, as they have much experience with windfarms at sea.

New fuels were part of these discussions as well. China made an important remark about the safety issues and requirements regarding the use and carriage of large batteries on board ships. They requested IMO to notice these new and developing technologies, and update the conventions and regulations that are relevant to these new innovations accordingly as part of the review that already takes place. China stated that it will be necessary to establish new training requirements, safety inspections requirements and other provisions regarding the usage and carriage of batteries, new fuels or other innovative means in the near future.

The forum was very useful in regards to ‘Regional Cooperation.’ Discussions were had about the progress of the establishment of an IMO Regional Presence Office in the Pacific Islands region. The need for greater technical cooperation and an increase in the delivery of technical assistance was an important point of these discussions.

The importance of training, lecturing, coaching future maritime leaders and mariners and the need for assistance and cooperation was also expressed by several delegations. An challenge shared by many delegations is that of providing global on-board training to foster competent young seafarers. The pacific region has very bright and kind seafarers, but is currently unable to get them sea time on board international vessels.

By Eva Lianne Veldkamp

The Center for Ocean Policy & Economics (COPE°) was invited by the Australian Maritime Administration to attend the 23rd session of the Asia-Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies (APHoMSA) forum, hosted in Sydney, Australia, from 5 to 8 June 2023. The meeting was attended by Eva Lianne Veldkamp, who is currently leading a COPE working group on psychological safety, bullying and SASH in the maritime sector.

During the forum, 26 countries were represented: Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, United States of America, Vietnam and Vanuatu. Nine observer organisations were also represented: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Seafarer Excellence Network (APEC SEN); the International Maritime Organization (IMO); the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO); the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC); the Pacific Community (SPC); the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Tokyo MoU), the Center for Ocean Policy and Economics (COPE), the Pacific Islands Maritime Association (PacMA), and the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA Australia).

“It was truly special to be around so many maritime leaders from around the Pacific Ocean,” said Eva Lianne. “To have the opportunity to come together to talk and connect with people that carry responsibility to protect the ocean and the safety of people.”

Covering half of the globe, the Asia-Pacific is the largest maritime region. While the lives and perspectives of people living near the Pacific Ocean is very specific, especially for those living on the many small islands in the Pacific, almost all of the topics that were discussed during the forum were of issues that concern us all.

Throughout the agenda items on ‘Women in Maritime’ and ‘Safety and Wellbeing of Seafarers,’ there was a lot of constructive dialogue on the importance of psychological safety in the maritime sector. The COPE° paper that was submitted to the forum under these agenda items resonated with many other delegations. The negative consequences that people face when simply being their authentic selves in their workplace indicates a lack of psychological safety.

In her introduction statement, Eva expressed that all people should feel safe and confident to speak up, share ideas, give honest feedback and communicate. “Even in a hierarchical setting like we have on board, this should be normalized. Even making a simple comment about working clothes that don’t fit properly on a female body, is sometimes hard to express. Let alone speaking up about much more vulnerable and sensitive things like bullying and SASH.” The COPE° paper pointed out the importance of ‘Allyship’ – using your voice to speak up for others – especially in helping a minority. “When we can make it safe for everyone, we can get the people on board who know what to do, to take care of themselves, each other, the ship and the sea. And build maritime workforce globally, that is safe enough to be inclusive and diverse.”

The USA delegation shared information about a campaign to report sexual misconduct in the maritime sector, inviting all members of the forum to aggressively pursue acceptance of reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault (SASH) from mariners. “Barriers to reporting contribute to the problem of SASH because they limit the number of cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment reported to the authorities and allow perpetrators to avoid accountability.” Members of the forum supported and applauded this important campaign and noted the fear of reporting. Not only is there generally a high level of shame and fear that comes with vulnerability, but different cultural, social and personal aspects complicate these issues even further.

Other documents submitted under the ‘Women in Maritime’ agenda item provided useful information and resources, wonderful ideas for improvements and thought provoking suggestions. WISTA Australia submitted an informative paper with valuable resources and toolkits for companies to use to provide diverse and inclusive working environments and teams. Potential solutions to create a working environment that is safe, inclusive, diverse and equal for everyone in maritime have been put forward, especially to address the many challenges faced by women in the industry. To provide potential solutions, it is important to understand the gravity of the problems and challenges within the industry, and to understand that programs and solutions must be implemented with care and oversight.

One delegation of a small Pacific Island shared the experiences of a program that was initiated several years ago to promote maritime careers for women. It enabled three enthusiastic young women to become licensed mariners. Upon completion of their educations, they began work on a cruise ship. Unfortunately, the program turned out to be a tragedy. Two of the three women returned home pregnant and alone, with the third committing suicide. The program was terminated immediately.

“This severely mournful story indicates what is currently is lacking in many teams and organizations, including those on board of ships and in maritime sector: psychological safety,” Eva pointed out in response. The COPE° paper noted that the absence of psychological safety is a root cause of bullying, assault and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual assault and sexual harassment. It describes that feeling unsafe within one’s workplace is an invisible and underrated safety issue, and is something that has become normalized in the maritime sector and on board ships.

Discussions were also had about the need for mandatory training provisions on these issues, noting the great work that already has been taken forward by IMO as part of the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code. There was also agreement amongst delegations to work on establishing international mechanisms, policies and measures to respond to, and resolve, cases of abuse, bullying and SASH.

Eva shared an interesting observation. “Several people pointed out that currently many ships are old, outdated and not safe to work on in general. It was also noted that many seafarers are in need of secure employment contracts that will hold and protect their needs and interests.”

In general, an optimistic understanding amongst all delegations indicated that there is a great willingness to use the severe challenges faced as opportunities for improvement. The forum decided to set up a correspondence group to work on agreements requiring action. In the upcoming period, this group is going to work on setting up a strategic plan on promoting women in maritime, developing leadership programs, creating a survey questionnaire to collect data on gender based issues on board of ships and on obtaining funding.

To summarize discussions under the agenda item of ‘Women in Maritime,’ Mr. Mick Kinley – CEO of the Australian Maritime Administration and Chair of the forum stated: “I think that we can all conclude to agree that psychological safety should be a basic human right.”

Another item on the agenda of the forum was ‘Marine Environment Protection and Maritime Incident response.’ There were several requests for cooperation and lessons learned shared by members of the forum. A number of marine incidents and SAR experiences were also shared and discussed. “It was very interesting to observe how governments and authorities around the Pacific are working together to keep the ocean clean and safe,” Eva noted. Several governments shared experiences and there was a great willingness for further collaboration across the Asia-Pacific.

Small Pacific Islands shared information about marine incidents which resulted in marine pollution. A big concern that was expressed was the lack of capacity to prosecute and compensate liability, clean up after pollution, remove wrecks and establish costs for use of assets needed to solve disasters. Statements were made about the need to hold shipowners and the maritime industry responsible for the damage on the ocean and the environment. “Insurers keep the total cost a secret, but this would provide a good insight on the importance of investing in prevention of incidents and marine disasters.”

IMO shared information on the development of a new program and training course on marine incident investigations, which will be based on the work that is done by the relevant sub-committee (III) and the reports that are submitted by IMO Member States to GSIS. Australia noted a paper that was submitted to the IMO Legal Committee about updating liability limits in this regard, which seems to have received little support until now.

Lastly, Eva noted that the cause of the marine incidents had to do with a lack of understanding and/or feeling of responsibility from the people working on the bridge. “This is an important observation, together with the earlier conclusion that many working environments on board of ships are not psychologically safe.”

The forum provided a space for delegations to share information on sustainability development planning and the implications this has on maritime safety. Arrangements for vessel traffic services, aids of navigation and cooperation with government bodies to ensure safe and secure maritime traffic were also topics that made for engaging discussions. Offshore wind parks and other offshore developments such as seaweed farming and space launch operations require specific solutions that have yet to be discovered. Several delegations expressed a big need for information on how to handle situations at sea regarding innovative developments. Countries such as the USA, New Zealand, Canada and Australia are generally looking to Europe, as they have much experience with windfarms at sea.

New fuels were part of these discussions as well. China made an important remark about the safety issues and requirements regarding the use and carriage of large batteries on board ships. They requested IMO to notice these new and developing technologies, and update the conventions and regulations that are relevant to these new innovations accordingly as part of the review that already takes place. China stated that it will be necessary to establish new training requirements, safety inspections requirements and other provisions regarding the usage and carriage of batteries, new fuels or other innovative means in the near future.

The forum was very useful in regards to ‘Regional Cooperation.’ Discussions were had about the progress of the establishment of an IMO Regional Presence Office in the Pacific Islands region. The need for greater technical cooperation and an increase in the delivery of technical assistance was an important point of these discussions.

The importance of training, lecturing, coaching future maritime leaders and mariners and the need for assistance and cooperation was also expressed by several delegations. An challenge shared by many delegations is that of providing global on-board training to foster competent young seafarers. The pacific region has very bright and kind seafarers, but is currently unable to get them sea time on board international vessels.

Eva invited all countries and organizations to join the Center for Ocean Policy & Economics (COPE°) and influence change together. COPE° provides a safe, digital platform for people to come together as a community to work to find salient solutions and action change. Learn more about COPE° at www.thecope.org.

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