Maersk settles sexual assault litigation with former midshipman

Maersk Line Limited (MLL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of A.P. Moller – Maersk, has settled litigation with Hope Hicks, a former midshipman on the Maersk Line’s ship Alliance Fairfax, filed against the company in New York Supreme Court in June for sexual assault and harassment during her cadet Sea Year in 2019.

According to a release from Maersk, the attorneys for Ms. Hicks and MLL agreed that neither side will disclose details of their agreement.

It is important to me that my case has brought greater awareness of the issue of sexual assault and harassment at sea. 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,” said Hicks.

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 further stated that the company 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.

“The parties agree 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,” Maersk said.

The case sheds further light on the burning issue of gender-based discrimination against women in the maritime profession as well as onboard harassment, and bullying.

Pessimistic figures on the treatment of women seafarers were disclosed in a recent survey published by the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International).

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Women represent only 1.2 percent of the world’s 1.89 million seafarers and 90+ percent of female seafarers are working in the cruise industry, according to data from the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The male-dominant profession has proven to be a very hostile environment for women and the industry has been struggling to change this image for years now.

Attracting new talent to the profession and diversifying the maritime workforce would continue to be a massive challenge if such practices are not eliminated, and the industry already faces officer shortages.

The underlying challenges from the shipping industry’s decarbonization processes are likely to further exacerbate the situation as the need for the best minds to join the sector increases while at the same time the track record of working in the business seems to be on a downward trajectory, especially after the challenges of the Covid pandemic.