Rikard Engström, CEO of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association, says that he only had positive reactions from the member shipping lines after the #lättaankar campaign.
Rikard Engström was present when representatives from the shipping industry gathered in Kalmar for a meeting about the campaign launched against sexual harassment in the maritime sector. He says he is glad to see the women seafarers’ campaign for testimonies along the lines of #MeToo and commends all those who have shared their experiences.
“I think this is a brilliant initiative. It’s impressive that so many women have had the strength to give their accounts. Even though I knew that shipping was not exempt from this kind of harassment, I – and many others – was surprised by how widespread and how serious some of the offences are.”
The large number of testimonies has shown that this is not a problem that is specific for the shipping industry, but Rikard Engström believes that shipping may be more affected than many other industries.
“Ships are male-dominated workplaces where people live and work close to each other in a confined area, often for several weeks at a time, which probably increase the risks. But sexual harassment is a widespread social problem which we must try to solve together, and shipping must do its part.”
According to Rikard Engström, Swedish shipping companies really want to get rid of these problems. A joint action plan against harassment and bullying was started in 2015 after several female students at the Maritime University in Kalmar reported offensive behaviour during their work placement on board. That action plan will now be developed, says Rikard Engström, who wants to see more preventive measures put in place.
”Taking care of problems that have already happened is important, but it is even more urgent to minimise the likelihood of problems occurring at all. Many shipping companies are already working on these issues, but there is always more to do. I think we need to consider what you can and can’t do, and what level of banter is acceptable. There will always be a few people who behave badly in different ways – you can’t get away from that – but we must keep it to a minimum.”
”In everybody’s interest”
Getting to grips with the problems that #lättaankar brings up is in everybody’s interest, says Rikard Engström.
“It’s a question of what sort of work environment we want to have and what sort of people we want to recruit. There are many good reasons for working on these issues, apart from the human and personal aspects.”