Increased awareness, more support to victims and new supervisor training. After the winter’s revelations about sexual harassment of students on ships, representatives of the industry have met and agreed on a common plan of action to prevent this kind of behaviour.
In February this year an article was published about a trainee officer who had been subjected to serious sexual harassment during the training period. After that, several other students reported similar incidents. The Kalmar Maritime Academy, where the student was based, reacted strongly.
”I was surprised at how serious it was,” says Ted Bågfeldt, head of department at the Maritime Academy at Linnaeus University. I knew that there was a certain way of talking on the ships, and that is not good, but I never thought this sort of thing happened.” It was especially serious since it involved an officer.
Ted Bågfeldt, director at the Maritime Academy at Linnaeus University, contacted representatives from authorities, employees, employers and colleges to develop an action plan to stamp out the harassment of students. Two weeks later the parties signed a joint strategy and action plan.
”The fact that it was done so quickly is partly because all the parties felt that it was such an important issue. It is probably part of the nature of the shipping industry, too. We are used to making quick decisions,” he says.
One of those who took part in the work in drawing up the strategy work is Pia Berglund, head of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association. She is happy with the agreement that has been made, but says that a lot of work remains.
”We have a large responsibility as employers, of course, and such incidents are a sign that we have not done enough to combat harassment and abuse. Possibly we need to learn more about the issue in order to be able to take the correct actions.
”The common strategy is, above all, about supporting students during their trainee periods on board. Employers now want to go further and find out what measures may be needed to combat harassment and offensive behaviour among ordinary crews,” says Pia Berglund.
”We want to be a sector for the future and attract young people to join us. It is important for the whole industry that we get to the bottom of this.”
Leadership and the work environment
At the Kalmar Maritime Academy, too, work is underway to stop offensive behaviour and harassment. Ted Bågfeldt tell us that, among other things, he has been out to the Marine Officer Academy and talked about the situation in all the classes there. The academy has also set up an internal working group with the task of reviewing the course syllabus and contents to see how the issue is handled during the course.
”It definitely belongs in area of leadership and the work environment. If it is not taken up enough, we need to consider how we can improve matters. Of course, it will take a little time before this work is done,” he says.