If April was the Only Month SOLAS was Discussed

file photo courtesy of Diamantino Rosa
file photo courtesy of Diamantino Rosa

Published May 2, 2020 7:15 PM by Fionna Boyle

Do you work on the water in the maritime or offshore energy industries? If so, you are an active contributor to safety of life at sea.

The shipboard family and fellow mariners are a seafarer’s lifeline to food, water, shelter, and safety; a unique lifestyle of complex and multidimensional tasks, human factors, and work dynamics that affect 1.7 million seafarers. 

Where would the industry be without the daily conversations and habits, drills and inspections, the local, regional, national and global conversation, the International Conventions that create conversation and emphasize the importance of prevention, awareness, and response?

What if April was the only month Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was discussed and awareness was shared? What if we only wore International Orange and Hi-Vis Yellow to honor the importance of SOLAS one month out of the year? 

Raise Public Awareness

One could assume the goal of a SOLAS Awareness Month would be to raise public awareness about safety at sea and educate communities on how to prevent unsafe behaviors, practices, near misses and incidents. SOLAS Awareness Month would call attention to the everyday habits, practices, conversations, and drills that create a positive safety culture on board that we all desire and expect to live and work in. 

Speak Up

SOLAS Awareness Month would remind us of every day actions to intervene by speaking up, looking out for our shipmates well being, and each person’s responsibility for “stop work authority.” It would promote a ship-wide standard of best practices, behaviors and positive habits so our shipboard family has a safe work tour onboard the vessel returning home safely to their friends and loved ones. 

Everyone Plays a Part

SOLAS Awareness Month would be a reminder that everyone plays a part in personal intervention by: directly saying something if seeing or hearing something that’s wrong; doing something by reporting an unsafe act or behavior to your supervisor to ensure the issue is fixed and help is received if needed or injury incurred; if nothing changes or a violation of the Safety Management System exists, to include ethically, morally or illegally wrong practices, reporting the incident to the Designated Person Ashore and/or authorities is expected and required.  

Crew members of every department - deck, engine, steward, etc - play an active role in safety awareness, incident prevention and response. If an incident occurs, reporting, response and active intervention is needed to save a life; follow-up care is necessary to ensure wellness, health and safety of the crew member, ship and environment. 

Sounds like SOLAS Awareness Month would impact every person in the maritime community; a topic important enough to be a routine discussion, weekly and even daily, for every vessel and every mariner worldwide. 

Change SOLAS to SAAM

Now, what if the acronym changed from SOLAS to SAAM? Replace “Safety of Life at Sea Awareness Month” to “Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”

There's no substitute for safety, doing it right and caring about your crew; the same goes for sexual assault and reducing the spectrum of harm by creating awareness, active prevention and training for response. Daily, weekly, and monthly habits of interpersonal respect and positive behaviors create a healthy shipboard lifestyle and workplace culture. This is the environment that all mariners desire, expect and have a right to live and work in.

While April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), each day of the year is an opportunity to create change for the future of our industry - we did it for safety; we can do it for sexual assault.

If you or someone you know experienced a sexual assault, you are not alone. The following is a list of resources to utilize.

•     RAINN-Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: https://www.rainn.org/about-sexual-assault , 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)
•     National Sexual Violence Resource Center: https://www.nsvrc.org/
•     Victim Connect: Confidential Referrals for Crime Victims: https://victimconnect.org/learn/types-of-crime/sexual-assault/,  1-855-484-2846
•     SeafarerHelp: https://www.seafarerhelp.org dial +44 20 7323 2737; email [email protected]  

Fionna Boyle is a graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy and professional mariner with a USCG Chief Mate Unlimited License serving global maritime and military communities.


The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.