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US Coast Guard Takes Action to Combat Sexual Misconduct in the Maritime Industry

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3974
October 2, 2023

In a recent effort to combat sexual misconduct in the maritime industry, the U.S. Coast Guard has implemented new reporting requirements for incidents of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault.

The responsible entity of a vessel is now required by law to report any such complaint or incident to the Coast Guard. To guide individuals and organizations in reporting instances of sexual misconduct, the Coast Guard has published MSIB 1-23, which provides comprehensive guidance on the reporting process. The Coast Guard Officers in Charge, Marine Inspections (OCMI) have also launched an education and outreach campaign to raise awareness among maritime industry personnel about the reporting requirements and preferred reporting mechanisms.

The Coast Guard emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing the needs of survivors and promoting a culture that opposes sexual assault and harassment. The reporting process encourages responsible entities to make reports promptly and provides various channels for reporting, including the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Tips app, email ([email protected]), or phone (202-372-2100).

Furthermore, the Coast Guard supports anonymous reporting through the CGIS Tips app or the National Command Center (NCC). Survivors are also encouraged to seek confidential help through the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

When a report is received, the Coast Guard conducts thorough and impartial investigations, collaborating with the Department of Justice for criminal matters. For non-criminal cases, Coast Guard investigators and specialized entities investigate all aspects of the allegation and take appropriate administrative enforcement action.

The Coast Guard’s authority extends to U.S.-flagged commercial vessels worldwide, where criminal investigations can be conducted for sexual assaults. Suspension and Revocation investigations are also carried out for allegations of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault in violation of employer policy or law, involving individuals holding a Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC).

In the case of foreign-flagged vessels, the Coast Guard has jurisdiction to investigate alleged incidents of sexual misconduct and harassment occurring in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The Coast Guard actively encourages reporting even if there is uncertainty about whether an incident constitutes sexual harassment or sexual assault.

To ensure compliance, responsible entities should refer to their company policies, procedures, safety management systems, or similar documents that define and address incidents of harassment. The Coast Guard urges all companies to implement policies against sexual misconduct and harassment.

The Coast Guard is committed to maintaining the safety and suitability of mariners and may deny an MMC for individuals with sexual misconduct convictions. The Transportation Security Administration’s revocation of a mariner’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) for disqualifying warrants, indictments, or convictions also renders the mariner ineligible to hold an MMC.

To protect the privacy and integrity of investigations, the Coast Guard exercises discretion in communicating with responsible entities during ongoing investigations. However, in cases where criminal referrals are not made and the victim requests anonymity, the Coast Guard may inform the involved company of an administrative Suspension and Revocation investigation.

The Coast Guard remains dedicated to preventing sexual misconduct in the maritime industry and encourages a culture that prioritizes safety, accountability, and the well-being of all individuals involved.

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