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Health and safety

Facing sexual abuse at sea

13 March 2024

Seafarers of any gender have the right to expect safeguards against abuse at sea. All states ratifying the 2019 amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) which relate to bullying and harassment are expected to adopt measures to protect seafarers against shipboard harassment and bullying.

The MLC recommends using the Guidance on Eliminating Shipboard Harassment and Bullying which was originally drafted by Nautilus International and is jointly published by the International Transport Workers' Federation and the International Chamber of Shipping. 

Reporting sexual abuse at sea

Nautilus is currently collaborating on a crime-reporting at sea project by Safer Waves – a charity dedicated to responding to sexual violence at sea – Devon and Cornwall Police and Winchester University.

The Union is supporting a phase of the project which is gathering survey data from seafarers (both female and male) who have experienced sexual abuse at sea. The project aims to develop a 'toolkit' of advice to clarify reporting and
evidence gathering procedures at sea, and signposting for post-trauma help.

Safer Waves also has the following practical advice for seafarers:

  • keep a record (if you do decide to report the behaviour, you will be able to give a full picture)
  • if you can, tell someone such as a trusted colleague, a friend, a union representative, or a helpline
  • find your company's policy on harassment, discrimination and bullying
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What to do

Nautilus members are encouraged to contact the Union for any workplace issues, including abuse, bullying and harassment.

Email with your name, membership number, a brief description of your situation, and a phone number if you want to speak to a Nautilus official.

● in emergencies outside European office hours, members can contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline

Nautilus offers advice on recognising and tackling bullying and harassment in the maritime workplace.

Nautilus Protect and Respect workplace guidance
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Men's health

The Seafarers Hospital Society offers health services that address
issues more commonly faced by men at sea. Its SeaFit physical,
mental health and wellbeing programme includes:

  • health checks, including blood pressure and heart
  • free dental checks and initial treatment (referrals for dentistry checks are made via local dentists)
  • mental health and wellbeing support
  • network of physiotherapists
Find out more about SeaFit


Become a Nautilus member today