Bullying and harassment continue to be a challenge for the maritime industry

February 15, 2022

Working at sea is a masculine profession with a strong culture that values ​​practical experience. Photo by the University of Linnaeus

Women and minority groups are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harassment at sea. This is shown in a scientific article by Cecilia Österman and Magnus Boström from the Kalmar Maritime Academy at Linnaeus University in Sweden. More than half of women sailors say they have been subjected to it.

Working at sea is a masculine profession with a strong culture that values ​​practical experience. Work on board is characterized to a large extent by precarious jobs, high workloads and sometimes conflicting demands to work both efficiently and safely. This is a breeding ground for work environment issues that increase the risk of bullying and harassment in the workplace, but it can also lead to health issues and accidents, according to the article. .

Cecilia Österman and Magnus Boström’s article “Workplace bullying and harassment at sea: A structured Literary review”, published in Shipping Policyreports on a systematic review of the published scientific literature on bullying and harassment at sea.

Negative special treatment occurs in all types of workplaces and the causes can often be found in the organizational and social work environment. Common contributing factors include unclear roles, tasks and responsibilities, high workload and managers who often lack the knowledge, tools and time to work proactively with the work environment, according to the report. item.

“A contributing factor to the maritime industry being particularly at risk of workplace bullying and harassment is the blurred line between work and private life on ships where crew work and live together, often for long stretches at a time. This makes it even more important to have leadership and interpersonal relationships that work well in social settings,” Österman explained.

The article shows that not much has happened since the first study on the subject in 1995. Today, the number of people who are victims of bullying and harassment at sea varies between 8% and 25% of all seafarers and more than 50% of all female seafarers. These figures are not very different from those of the first studies on the subject, specify the authors of the article.

“Even though research on bullying and harassment at sea is receiving more attention, there is a general need for future research, and intervention studies in particular,” Boström said.

“Above all, the underlying causes of negative special treatment must be tackled to ensure that personnel at sea enjoy decent working conditions. Managers ashore and officers on board must have sufficient resources, ‘usable tools and enough time to be able to work proactively to reduce the factors that are the breeding ground for bullying and harassment in the workplace,” Boström said.

Cecilia Österman and Magnus Boström also produced ‘Ogilla läget’, a popular science brochure with advice on how managers and employees in the maritime industry can contribute to a good organizational and social working environment.

“We need to ask ourselves new types of questions to better understand working conditions on board. Given the expected future shortage of qualified personnel for the maritime industry, measures are needed to improve the recruitment of new personnel and to retain existing personnel. This is about protecting seafarers from bullying and harassment and safeguarding the well-being of all people at sea, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” says the item.