Introduced in the House of Representatives at the end of February, the Safer Seas Act aims to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH) in the maritime industry. It was introduced by Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) along with 17 co-sponsors, and the bill has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
According to the subcommittee, the bill:
- Clarifies the Coast Guard’s ability to deny, suspend, or revoke a merchant mariner credential to individuals who have been convicted of sexual harassment or sexual assault;
- Strengthens transparency surrounding companies’ sexual assault policies and procedures;
- Protects victims and witnesses who report SASH incidents from discrimination;
- Directs the Coast Guard to initiate rulemaking to determine safe levels of alcohol consumption by crew members aboard vessels;
- Outlines surveillance requirements, which may be used as evidence in criminal or marine safety investigations;
- Creates a master key control system to limit the personnel who have access to private spaces;
- Requires reporting to the Coast Guard by any seafarer, master, or vessel owner with knowledge of sexual harassment or sexual assault;
- Extends the right to civil action for those pursuing sexual assault and sexual harassment cases;
- Provides the Secretary of Transportation the ability to waive requirements for U.S. Merchant Marine Academy students who provide reasonable safety concerns when obtaining a merchant mariner license required for graduation; and
- Adds definitions for sexual assault and harassment.
“We are taking a critical step toward eliminating sexual violence in the maritime industry,” DeFazio said. “With this legislation, we can help fight assault and harassment in maritime transportation through penalties for perpetrators, new requirements for vessel owners, expanded legal recourse for victims, and a myriad of policies to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the first place. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation signed into law and protect hard-working seafarers.”
“As chairman of the Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse from within our maritime industry – and I know that keeping our seas safe is a mission that will not be complete without eradicating these threats to our seafarers,” said Carbajal. “The Safer Seas Act will focus not just on preventing future sexual violence, but also on supporting survivors and holding perpetrators accountable.” The bill is supported by maritime unions, including the SIU, AMO, MEBA and the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
“We applaud the efforts of the Committee to work with maritime labor and the industry to create meaningful reforms that will ensure safe and equitable workplaces for mariners now and in the future,” said Greg Regan president of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.