Photo: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Maersk Line, Limited Settles Sexual Assault and Harassment Lawsuit with ‘Midshipman X’

Mike Schuler
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November 18, 2022

A.P. Moller-Maersk subsidiary Maersk Line, Limited has reached a settlement with Hope Hicks, the former U.S. Merchant Marine Academy midshipman at the center of “Midshipman X” scandal, to resolve civil litigation over her sexual assault and harassment aboard one of their U.S.-flagged vessels in 2019.

Details of the settlement have not been disclosed.

“It is important to me that my case has brought greater awareness of the issue of sexual assault and harassment at sea,” Hicks said in statement. “The leadership of MLL has expressed the need for change. The changes that MLL has proposed are an important first step, but there is still a lot of work to be done in the maritime industry.”

Hicks filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in June for sexual assault and harassment during her cadet Sea Year training aboard the U.S.-flagged MLL vessel Alliance Fairfax.

Hicks’ story shook the maritime industry last year after she shared in an anonymous blog post about how she was raped by a superior officer while serving as an engine cadet aboard a Maersk cargo ship during her Sea Year. She became known in the industry as “Midshipman-X” before her identity was eventually revealed through the lawsuit.

Hicks’ story prompted others to come forward with their own stories of sexual assault and harassment at sea and led to major changes to the Sea Year program and at the federal service academy.

Maersk said it had suspended five employees as part of an investigation into the alleged sexual assault on one of its ships run by Maersk Line, Limited, a U.S.-based subsidiary of the A.P. Moller-Maersk group.

Maersk suspended five employees in the wake of the revelations and all five have since been fired, a Maersk spokesperson told Reuters on Friday.

Hicks’ complaint alleged that Maersk failed to adequately protect USMMA midshipmen from sexual assault and sexual harassment. A second complaint, filed on behalf of another USMMA student, alleged that the claimant experienced extreme sexual harassment, unwanted touching and discrimination while on board the same Maersk vessel two years later.

“We want to be absolutely clear that the events Ms. Hicks describes are unacceptable. No matter who and where you are, those who work with us must feel safe and protected in our work environment,” said William Woodhour, CEO, Maersk Line, Limited.

MLL says it has initiated a full program of training, reporting, and accountability internally and is working externally with all industry stakeholders, to include its industry partners, labor unions, the Maritime Administration, the maritime academies, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Both Hicks and MLL also agreed that all industry partners need to work together to ensure that all of our mariners are provided with a respectful and safe work environment at sea.

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