Phillips: Anti-Harassment Rules Will Help Keep Mariners in the Industry


Published Mar 27, 2024 7:05 AM by The Maritime Executive


U.S. Maritime Administrator Ann Phillips has many tasks on her plate, from MARAD's new training ships to the Ready Reserve Fleet, but mariner recruitment and retention is at the top of the list. Attracting enough people to the maritime industry will take a cultural shift, she said in a newly-released podcast from the American Maritime Partnership.

Since 2022, MARAD has been working with U.S.-flag carriers on a formal program to combat bullying, sexual assault and sexual harassment on board. 19 companies have joined MARAD's EMBARC program so far, Phillips says, and more are on the way. The initiative is now enshrined in law, thanks to text in last year's defense spending bill. 

But MARAD is not just focused on rules and enforcement, she says. Getting bullying and harassment out of the industry would help meet a national security objective - the need to keep enough Americans in the business of seafaring. 

"Without that, we're going to struggle with retention across the board, whether it's women, men, race or any other [factor]," Phillips said.

Women make up about seven percent of the American maritime workforce, she says, but the majority of the U.S. population is female - an obvious mismatch. Improving recruitment and retention of women is at top of mind for Phillips, and that could be good for everyone. 

"It turns out often that policies that help retain women help retain men too, because they are things that are more focused on quality of life - on different options for people in their career paths," said Philips. "We really need to think through how today's young people want to view themselves and can view themselves in this industry, and how we can make changes to help continue their service."

Phillips understands what a seagoing career looks like, though she experienced it from a different angle. She was a career surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy for 31 years, including three in command of the destroyer USS Mustin. She retired at the rank of rear admiral in 2014. "I know what it's like to be at sea, and to face the challenges that mariners face broadly. And of course, mariners are all one community, particularly in times of crisis, safety, security," she said.