In a commendable move, the U.S. Coast Guard has undertaken significant steps to tackle sexual misconduct within the maritime industry, ensuring the safety and well-being of people at sea globally.
The newly implemented reporting requirements, now mandated by law, have placed the onus on vessel operators to promptly report incidents of harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault to the Coast Guard.
MSIB 1-23 is a comprehensive guide to the reporting process, a valuable resource for individuals and organisations navigating the reporting of sexual misconduct incidents.
This resource empowers victims and witnesses, ensuring their voices are heard and their experiences addressed, enhancing transparency and accountability in the maritime sector, and represents a crucial step towards creating a more accountable and secure environment on the high seas.
The Coast Guard's Officers in Charge, Marine Inspections (OCMI), have also initiated an education and outreach campaign aimed at raising awareness among maritime industry personnel about the reporting requirements and preferred reporting channels.
To facilitate reporting, the Coast Guard also provides multiple channels, including the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Tips app, email (CGISTIPS@uscg.mil), and a phoneline (202-372-2100). Survivors are also encouraged to seek confidential help through the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
The Coast Guard's jurisdiction extends to U.S.-flagged commercial vessels worldwide, allowing for criminal investigations into sexual assaults.
In cases involving foreign-flagged vessels operating 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.
Through its Sexual Assault Prevention, Response, and Recovery (SAPRR) Programme, the Coast Guard said it will ensure that if sexual assault does occur, they will provide immediate and compassionate victim support, a responsive and intimidation-free reporting environment inhospitable to retaliation, a timely, professional investigation; holistic care and recovery for victims; and accountability for those who commit this crime.
This open-door policy and the Coast Guard’s encouragement of all companies to implement policies against sexual misconduct and harassment demonstrates its dedication to promoting a culture of respect and security and creates a safer space for victims and witnesses to speak out, sending a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
Addressing sexual misconduct in the maritime industry and upholding human rights at sea is a collective effort.
The U.S. Coast Guard's initiatives are a crucial step in the right direction and should serve as a model that we hope inspires actions from other states, governments, organisations, and individuals worldwide.
We remain committed to raising awareness, providing information and guidance for victims of discrimination and violence on how to obtain justice., collaborating with the maritime sector for improved standards, exposing non-compliance, and advocating for international legislation to combat inequality and violence at sea through our Equality at Sea programme.
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