Government reforms training program at sea after alleged rape of 19-year-old student

The program was halted early last month, just weeks before the students began their trip, as lawmakers sharply criticized the school for failing to protect the students.

As part of the decision announced on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation and Maritime Administration released a long list of new safety standards that the academy (USMMA) and shipping companies must implement, saying they plan to lift the suspension on December 22.

One of the academy’s main draws is “Sea Year,” when students are typically sent in pairs to work alongside older, predominantly male crew members on commercial vessels. It provides students with real-world experience before entering the shipping industry – with many graduates becoming engineers and executives of shipping companies.

Among the reforms to the program, the academy says it will ensure that students are allowed to use satellite phones and satellite texting devices to receive assistance at sea. It also introduced a new amnesty policy. which he says will protect students reporting sexual assault – as well as passers-by and bystanders – from getting into trouble if alcohol or drug use policies were violated at or around the time of the report. suspected assault.

Ship operators, meanwhile, must adhere to more than 30 new measures before being allowed to transport USMMA students. This includes designating a person within the shore-based company specially trained for victim assistance with whom students can regularly communicate and contact for any issues involving sexual assault, and immediately report any incidents to the USMMA whether or not it is a student.

This is the second time Sea Year has been suspended in the past five years due to concerns about sexual assault and harassment. The program was discontinued in 2016 and reinstated the following year when the school pledged that new rules and a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault and harassment would keep cadets safe on campus. and at sea.

    'I was trapped': Shipping giant investigates alleged rape of 19-year-old girl during federal training program

But last September, a student posted an anonymous account online claiming that she was raped by her supervisor, a senior crew member, in 2019 while aboard a Maersk ship during the Year of the Sea. Since returning to campus, she said she learned that nine other female students currently enrolled in the academy had said they were also raped during their Year of the Sea.

As her message circulated among the USMMA community and the shipping industry, lawmakers blasted the school, Maersk suspended five crew members, the company and the federal government began investigating the reported rape, and the Department of transport suspended Sea Year while it reviewed the program and discussed improvements.

The agency said Wednesday it hopes the new requirements will allow Sea Year to resume in a way that helps protect students from sexual assault and harassment and better protect victims.

“The plan is a first step,” Acting Marine Administrator Lucinda Lessley said in the statement. “All parties are committed to continuing to review this program frequently and to make improvements whenever necessary to ensure the safety and success of USMMA cadets.”

Do you have any experience or information to share about the US Merchant Marine Academy or the marine industry? Email us at [email protected]

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