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EMBARC: Changing Course - From Coarse to Enlightened

Marine News

Until every employee, and every midshipman, and cadet, and every trainee trusts the system and until all allegations are handled properly, abuse will continue to occur, it will continue to go unreported, and people will continue to suffer alone—and that is simply intolerable,” said Lucinda Lessley, Acting Maritime Administrator, presenting at the Connecticut Maritime Association Shipping Expo and Conference, in February.

On March 30, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) released a guidance document—EMBARC— to establish a structure and process to protect maritime cadets from sexual assault and sexual harassment (SASH). Its primary focus is on U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (MMA) cadets during their Sea Year training on commercial vessels. However, it has an expanded focus: to establish a safe, respectful and non-hostile working environment for all mariners throughout the maritime industry.


For additional insight, Marine News reached out to a number of maritime experts. Jeanne Grasso is a maritime attorney, with Blank Rome LLP, based in Washington, D.C., specializing in maritime issues. Grasso noted that while the EMBARC Guidance focuses on vessels employing USMMA cadets, its presence on the policy stage should not be disregarded.

“EMBARC is an important start,” she said, adding that “these standards should help foster a safer and more inclusive shipboard work environment. Even more critical, however, is the company’s culture and accountability on the part of leadership, both shipboard and shoreside.”

Grasso commented that SASH aboard vessels, U.S. flag and foreign flag, unfortunately has a long history and is not confined to a few bad actors. The standards set forth in EMBARC need to draw vessel operators’ attention.

“The industry cannot lose focus,” Grasso emphasized. “This is not just a cadet issue, and it is not just a female issue, it is widespread and must be dealt with in an expansive and comprehensive manner.”

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"EMBARC: Changing Course - from Coarse to Enlightened," by Tom Ewing was published in Marine News on May 9, 2022.