A former cadet’s sexual assault account aboard an unnamed Maersk Line Limited (MLL) ship has generated widespread attention in the maritime community. The cadet is a midshipman at the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). She had been embarked as part of the Sea Year training program conducted by the academy.
Danish shipping major, A.P. Moller-Maersk, has currently suspended five crew members as part of an ongoing investigation into the sexual assault case. The firm has said that it is closely working with the US authorities.
USMMA has attracted scrutiny previously for challenges in managing sexual assaults: Following a series of unfavorable developments in 2016, the US Department of Transportation had temporarily stopped the USMMA’s Sea Year program to review its sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention protocols.
On its official webpage, it reads MLL, a US-based subsidiary of the A.P. Moller-Maersk group works with the government to support the military, humanitarian, and government missions.
MLL declared, in a statement, that as part of the ongoing investigation, five of its crew members have been suspended. The outcome is still pending.
The shipping major has been working closely with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT), US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point, labor unions, the US Maritime Administration (MARAD), and also the US Coast Guard.
“Sea Year” is a special program conducted by the academy, wherein cadets acquire expertise on Maersk Line and ships. A limited number of candidates are permitted in the program. So far, the scheme has trained 732 cadets from 2017.
A spokesperson from the USDOT’s Maritime Administration, said that the alleged incident was brought to his notice and he added that USMMA Superintendent had referred it to the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) on 28 September.
The story has also reached the headquarters of AP Moller-Maersk, the MLL parent company, which is the world’s largest ocean carrier. It has also reached the desk of Søren Skou, APMM CEO.
An MLL spokesperson said that they maintain zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assaults at the USMMA and also in the whole maritime industry.
He added that while they determine the appropriate measures needed to increase and ensure the safety of all USMMA students, they pledge to cooperate with the entire USMMA community including alumni, parents, and students.
It is not the first instance whereby an MLL vessel has been touched by a sexual assault case. In November 2020, MLL had been fined $10,000 for not being able to provide a sexual assault report to the Coast Guard regarding a case on the Maersk Idaho.
AP Moller-Maersk has historically refused to share information about sexual assaults and sexual harassment within the global organization. It has always cited confidentiality as the reason to not share. APMM technical manager Palle Laursen has informed Berlingske that they do not bear the impression that it is a widespread phenomenon on Maersk.
Bill Woodhour, CEO of MLL has stated that they are shocked and saddened about the incident they have read about. They have taken the situation seriously. At the same time, they are disturbed by the allegations made in the anonymous posting. he added that the firm does everything to ensure that their workplaces, including vessels, are welcoming and safe places. They have also launched a thorough investigation into this case.