Tackling bullying and harassement aboard ship isn’t a matter of being politically correct – a fearful, bullied and harassed crew is an unsafe crew and has contributed to injuuries, fatalities and loss of ship (See The Case Of The Unfamiliar Mariner). It is a severely under-reported issue because seafarers are often scared of losing their jobs if they complain. The following incident is from the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme. It is not a recent report but is reproduced here as a reminder.
If you know of similar incidents, tell us about them using our confidential report page.
“The incident I have been most shocked by is the bullying by some officers on other crew. I had sailed with a certain Asian 2nd Officer previously and sailed again with him onboard a vessel last winter. The Chief Officer was European and certainly had a chip on his shoulder against what seemed like the whole world. What the world had done against him I’ll never know, but maybe it was just being deep sea for so long.
“The Asians do 9 month contracts compared to the 3 months by the Europeans – a long time by all standards. The Chief Officer verbally abused the 2nd Officer both privately and publicly – usually over VHF whilst the 2nd Officer was working hard. All the crew would cringe and wince as the foul mouthed insults would fly towards the poor 2nd mate who knew that he could not talk back or his job would be in jeopardy.
“This continued for 2 months until one day the Chief told him that he thought that he was s**t, had bought his license and was a waste of oxygen. Combined with that he told him that his English was crap (it wasn’t because I spoke to him all the time).
“The Chief smiled as the 2nd mate quit his job and signed off the ship in tears. I was ashamed that day. The Master was fully aware of the bullying that was occurring on the vessel but chose to turn a blind eye because he “didn’t want to interfere with the Chief Officer” (who was feared even by the Captain).
The Captain was a very laid back man who was quiet with all the crew and barely uttered a word to anyone.”