Maersk faces sexual assault at sea charges

Maersk is facing a manning crisis at sea as multiple reports of sexual assault surface.

In the US, two lawsuits are being filed in New York state court against Maersk Line, Limited, the Danish carrier’s American subsidiary, with two women cadets claiming they were sexually harassed and assaulted while working at sea for a year as part of their course with the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA).

Both sexual assault cases took place onboard the Alliance Fairfax, an American-flagged car carrier, in which terrible reports of rape and alcohol abuse have been detailed, initially by one of the plaintiffs who went by the moniker Midshipman-X before revealing her identity yesterday as Hope Hicks.

“Maersk acknowledged that it owes a special duty of care to USMMA cadets, yet even after the Sea Year program was reinstated in 2017, Maersk failed to implement and enforce adequate policies and procedures to protect these young women,” said Steven Kelly, a partner at law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp, which is representing the plaintiffs.

There have been previous incidents of sexual harassment at USMMA including a high profile case six years ago and a $1.4m settlement in 2020 for another victim.

This week Maersk revealed it has started interviewing its more than 350 female seafarers after reports of another sexual harassment case broke in Danish media over the weekend. The company admitted this week it has a problem with abusive behaviour among employees at sea.

“We just have to admit that what we have done in the past has been insufficient. That is why we are now making a massive effort with a number of targeted initiatives to create a cultural change onboard our ships,” Palle Laursen, Maersk’s chief fleet and technical officer, told local media earlier this week.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Wake up – the shipping industry cannot be blind any longer or bury its head under water . Enough is enough. Protect all seafarers and restore the dignity of the women who have chosen a seagoing career against all odds. The industry needs more women at sea to counter this barbaric inhumane treament of women by so-called men.
    Maersk may only be the tip of the iceberg!!

  2. Putrid barracks at USMMA are not well fitted to educate sensible people that one needs on board.

    1. One dog was also raped, but it can not speak english! even if it could, nobody will believe it!

  3. Sexual assault and harassment is abhorrent, kudos to maersk for making the effort to interview all their female seafarers. I hope they extend their efforts to interview all seafarers as many men are raped and harassed at sea also. Sexual abuse is unacceptable and in my decade at sea I believe everyone needs protected.

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