Maersk provides new information on the Midshipman X investigation while representatives of the accused officers’ union at MEBA remain silent nine days after the news became public.
Rape allegations are “widespread in the container shipping industry,” according to a cadet (#MidshipmanX) who claims she was raped while serving a year at sea on a Maersk Line vessel.
Five Maersk crewmembers have been suspended, but the alleged victim claims that of the 50 women in her year at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, all reported sexual harassment, including at least five rapes, while at sea.
The Maersk cadet became an advocate for the victims upon returning from her year at sea. She said, “The number of girls who have come to me to report a sexual assault case is absolutely sickening. Since returning from sea I have heard from other women in lower grades who were also raped during their year at sea, and I know there are at least 10 young women currently enrolled in the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy who were raped during their year at sea. And there are cases that I am unaware of.”
Detailing her alleged assault on the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy (MLAA) website, the cadet painted a picture of drunkenness and lewd behavior and spoke of being pressured hard to drink strong alcoholic beverages to the point where she was unable to protect herself.
Maersk Line is investigating a recent anonymous publication of an alleged sexual assault of a cadet aboard a U.S.-flagged vessel in 2019.
Maersk is working closely with U.S. unions representing officers and crew, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where the cadet is enrolled, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), which oversees the U.S. maritime academy and industry, the U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees MARAD, and the U.S. Coast Guard, which enforces U.S. flag regulations and laws.”
Maersk Line has a strict zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol consumption and sexual assault/sexual harassment on its vessels, in full compliance with U.S. government regulations. As part of the investigation process, the master, chief engineer, first assistant engineer and two junior engineers have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
In response to the MLAA publication, many women have written in support of the cadet, as well as some who have outlined their own experiences.
One wrote: “Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the maritime industry extends to offices as well. It is a tolerated culture in the industry. I have been a victim of sexual harassment and coercion in Maersk’s offices.”
The MLAA, however, asserted that the problem was much broader than just Maersk, it was an industry-wide problem.
Bill Woodhour, CEO of Maersk Line, said, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by what we have read. We take this situation very seriously and are concerned about the allegations made in this anonymous publication, of which we have only recently become aware. We do everything we can to ensure that all of our work environments, including ships, are a safe and welcoming place to work, and we have launched an investigation from start to finish.”
The cadet concluded her article, “This year I developed a resume to apply for jobs after graduation, and I put “victim advocate” on my resume. When I went to a resume workshop at Kings Point, two USMMA employees told me that I should remove ‘victim advocate’ from my resume, because ‘it makes people in our line of work uncomfortable, and you wouldn’t want to do that.’