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Health and safety

Superyacht sector reports 125% rise in violence at sea among worrying trend of seafarer abuse

23 June 2023

The superyacht industry has been flagged as an area of concern by seafarer helplines responding to a global increase in reports of abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination (ABHD).

Data from helplines managed by the International Seafarers' Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) show the number of seafarers reporting ABHD increased by almost 50% in the first quarter of 2023, compared to the previous quarter.

Increasing reports of ABHD from seafarers is a key trend across its helpline services. Cases involving these issues increased by 45% from Q4 2022 to Q1 2023 across all ISWAN helplines, which offer practical, emotional and wellbeing support to seafarers of any nationality. The majority of these cases related to abusive or bullying behaviour by senior officers, and 19% involved sexual abuse or sexual harassment.

Nautilus International's member emergency help service Nautilus 24/7 also confirmed the number of ABHD-related calls increased by 33% in Q1 2023 compared with Q1 in 2022, including a clear increase of ABHD related calls from yacht members.

In Q1 2023, up to 75% of N24/7 calls covering abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination were from yacht crew members, compared to the previous quarter (October to December 2022) when such calls made up about 37.5% of calls, and 47% overall for the whole of 2022.

Issues are reported more by male seafarers than female seafarers, according to the Nautilus 24/7 service. This likely reflects the fact that only 3% of Merchant Navy crew are women, although Nautilus has a higher proportion of female members. In Q1 2023, 75% of callers to Nautilus 24/7 with ABHD-related issues were male, compared to 66% in Q1 2022.

Members reporting bullying and harassment issues on the Nautilus 24/7 helpline are referred to the Union's industrial team, and members with issues should contact their organiser direct if possible.

The majority of the cases reported to the ISWAN helplines related to abusive or bullying behaviour by senior officers, and 19% involved sexual abuse or sexual harassment.

On ISWAN's Yacht Crew Help helpline, cases involving abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination increased by 125% quarter-on-quarter, highlighting a key problem area for the superyacht industry to tackle.

The Nautilus yacht team said: 'We regularly assist crew members regarding cases of abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination. It is crucial we have this first port of call support for all seafarers in need, as outlined in the reports.

'Any members who are suffering from, or have been affected by such abuse, bullying, harassment or discrimination, should reach out to us via our yacht department. We can provide our members with support in relation to both emotional support and, reporting of the matter both internally and to the local Port Authorities or, in cases of assault which is a criminal offence, to the relevant Police authorities to investigate the matter.

'In addition, we can support and assist our members with setting out their complaints/grievance in accordance with the onboard grievance policy and procedure.'

Nautilus members are also reminded of the importance of keeping a log of events, including dates/times of incidents; witnesses to such incidents etc. in support of the issue raised.

In response ISWAN is working with industry partners to shortly produce a personal safety resource for those seeking work onboard yachts.

  • for more information on the Nautilus yachts service visit the Yacht Hub
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