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University of Southern Denmark launches new knowledge centre for diversity and inclusion at sea

Employees in the Danish fleet should not be subjected to bullying, harassment, and assaults. Research in a new centre aims to ensure a good working environment.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 4/25/2024

The Centre for Maritime Health and Society (CMSS) at SDU has joined forces with the Svendborg International Maritime Academy (SIMAC) to establish the Maritime Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Knowledge Centre (MARDEI).

This new knowledge centre symbolises a groundbreaking effort dedicated to combating bullying, harassment, and sexual assault and harassment, while promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion within the maritime sector in Denmark. MARDEI has been created as a hub for initiatives and knowledge across the Danish maritime industry.

The initiative supports the international call to action against sexual assault and harassment, partially based on findings from a 2023 research report on bullying and harassment from SDU, initiated by the Ministry of Business and the Danish Maritime Authority by a research team from CMSS and the National Institute of Public Health.

Widespread bullying culture

Lisa Loloma Froholdt, research leader at CMSS, Institute for Health Services Research, was the lead author and project manager of the report.

-Both the quantitative and qualitative results in the report showed a significant number of cases of bullying and a widespread bullying culture in the industry. There are instances of bullying, harassment, threats of violence, and actual physical violence aboard ships in the Danish merchant fleet, she explains.

The overall extent of these cases suggests that the issue is not about individuals, single shipping companies, or segments, but rather a general problem in the industry.

-There are more men who are subjected to bullying and harassment in the fleet, but relatively, there are more women who experience harassment and unwanted sexual attention, tells Lisa Loloma Froholdt.

-For example, about 17 percent of respondents reported experiencing bullying at their workplace, while about 11 percent have been subjected to harassment.

Youth at sea are most vulnerable

According to the study, incidents primarily occur aboard cargo ships sailing long distances, and it is predominantly young seafarers and those with little experience at sea who are exposed to harassment and bullying.

At the same time, the study shows that the challenges with bullying and harassment are not only about gender, but also relate to race and cultural background.

-With the knowledge centre, we aim to set a new standard for the working environment within the Danish fleet. By gathering knowledge and resources, we can henceforth offer concrete tools and support to seafarers and companies. It is crucial to promote an inclusive and respectful working environment, says Lisa Loloma Froholdt.

-Through our research, we have identified a critical need for a proactive approach to these challenges, she adds.

Collaboration between education and research

The goal is to create a transparent and uniform approach to handling the complex challenges of bullying, harassment, and sexual assault and harassment in the maritime industry, ensure capacity building, and serve as an independent source of knowledge and data.

-With this initiative, SDU and SIMAC chart a new course for creating a work environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Maritime research and education take on the task together although the centre is physically located at SIMAC in Svendborg, says Lisbeth Skræ, head of education at SIMAC.

- The future employees of the Danish fleet, many of whom we educate at SIMAC, should be able to feel safe at work and be confident that the work environment is under control, Lisbeth Skræ adds.

Meet the researcher

Lisa Loloma Froholdt is Head of Research at CMSS - Centre for Maritime Health and Society, Department of Public Health.


Editing was completed: 25.04.2024