The United States Merchant Marine is an industry which attracts the country’s most dedicated and hardy workers. But even a few of the most rugged of high school students find life at sea unagreeable. This is part of the reason why the country’s state maritime academies require each cadet to acquire months of seatime prior to graduation. The rate of attrition is high, but the result is a class of determined professionals equipped to face any challenge at sea.
That is, with the possible exception of harassment.
Amy Jones, a recent graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, is entangled in a legal battle with London-based Ensco Plc, the world’s second largest offshore drilling company, over harassment. In a suit filed in federal court, Jones states that the company subjected her to sexual and religious discrimination. She also declares that major HS&E infractions created an unsafe working environment for her and her coworkers.
The lawsuit states, “This assignment was dangerous, discriminatory, against Jone’s religious and moral values, sexually discriminating, and could have left Complainant exposed to attack, and even death, if found living in quarters with another male for whom she was not married under the laws of various countries,”
According to the Louisiana Record, “The defendants are accused of negligence for failing to provide a reasonably safe place to work, failing to take precautions for the safety of Jones while aboard the drilling rig, failing to provide minimum safety requirements, failing to provide adequate housekeeping policy on board the M/V Deep Ocean Clarion, wrongful termination based on discriminatory conduct, and sexual and religious discrimination.”
Jones is asking for an award of approximately $1.9 million in damages for wrongful termination, past and future wage loss, attorney’s fees, loss of enjoyment of life, stress, humiliation, lack of respect, emotional distress, loss of self-esteem, punitive damages, interest and court costs.
The Deep Ocean Clarion, a sixth-generation drillship operated by Pride International, was under construction at Samsung Heavy Industries’ shipyard in Geoje, South Korea at the time when Jones claims she was harassed. In 2011 Pride was purchased by Ensco which renamed the vessel DS-4.
The lawsuit filed by Jones states that she was fired from her employment aboard the Clarion on Aug. 12, 2010 after being ordered, and refusing, to share a room with men.
An American Chief Mate and SUNY Maritime College graduate currently working as a trainer to maritime and offshore companies told gCaptain, “I have been sexually harassed once and assaulted twice in my career as an officer aboard ships, but I hope my history is not typical.” She continues, “Sexual Harassment does exist offshore, but is not as common as most people think. I don’t want women to be discouraged, sexual harassment happens in a lot of industries and overall I feel comfortable working with men offshore and at sea.”
According to a Maine Maritime alumnus still working aboard the vessel, Jones was not the first to be asked to share a room. He states, “We have other females aboard that do not agree on any of her points.” But a female source working aboard another ENSCO drillship claims, “The work environment in Korea was unacceptable to women and made worse on that ship by a Captain with a history of complaints by crew of both sexes.”
According sources inside the company, the Captain in question no longer works aboard the DS4 but continues his employment as the master of another Ensco drillship working in the Gulf Of Mexico. A representative of Ensco returned our phone call but stated that the company does not comment on pending litigation.
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