Human Game

I have been in the marine industry for 30 years and reading the articles that are posted below, has me somewhat speechless. As anyone who knows me can attest, it is a state that I am not often in.

If the allegations are true, these cadets have been failed by the industry.

They were failed by the marine school who obviously did not give them the support they required; they were failed by senior management of the vessel who condoned and participated in this behavior and they were failed by the marine company who neglected the safety of the most powerless people on board their ship.

For this to go so far, I can’t even imagine the atmosphere of secrecy and fear on the vessel, with the cadets threatened not to reveal the goings on with implications to their life and careers. These men and woman lived every moment of their day on the ship with the threat of violence. Most of us who went to sea, never had to deal with this type of manipulation and fear.

It is extremely easy for officers and crew to abuse cadets as it is. Most of these cadets are young and unsure about a new vessel and their reception onboard. For a woman, doubly so, for they must overcome the perception that they may not be as good as a man in the job and are taking wages from a man who is supporting a family. Add to that the cultural indoctrination toward woman of each crew member of that ship and it is a messy situation for a person who may never been exposed to anything like it in their life.

Here in Canada, the ship and company must report acts of violence on board to Transport Canada. Hopefully such an avenue will exist for any mariner trapped on these hell-ships world-wide.

I hope that this is investigated by the police and the Company and the participants dealt with severely. I am surprised that a company that is owned by Maersk has sunk to such low behavior….or maybe they never rose above it.

Human Game, Shiptalk

South African police are investigating the death of 19-year-old Akhona Geveza after the cadet fell overboard and died only hours after making rape allegations last month.

It was claimed she had told a fellow cadet and the ship’s master she had been raped by the Ukrainian Chief Officer of the “Safmarine Kariba”. Her body was found floating off the Croatian coast, she had just two weeks to go to finish her apprenticeship.

The incident has rightly caused real shock, especially as other cadets have alleged a pattern of abuse by senior officers on board the vessel.

Geveza, was a cadet in the Transnet National Port Authority‘s maritime studies programme, which has seen about a hundred young South African women encouraged to go to sea. Investigations are ongoing into the troubled study initiative, as something seems to have gone horribly wrong.

Many Cadets have emerged to claim systematic abuse by senior officers, “who threatened cadets’ careers if they did not perform sexual acts”. There are allegations, including claims by both male and female cadets that they had been raped at sea; a female cadet had to terminate two pregnancies. Another male cadet was allegedly signed off because he refused to have sex with a senior officer.

A cadet told the reporters that her cohort of ten female cadets was told on board that “The captain is our god; he can marry you, baptise you and even bury you without anybody’s permission. We were told that the sea is no man’s land and that what happens at sea stays at sea.” While one former female Cadet claimed, “It was like we were dumped in the middle of a game park.”

While there are strong suggestions that sexual harassment may be rife in the Transnet cadet scheme Safmarine Africa region executive Jonathan Horn said this was an isolated incident. He claimed, “We are deeply saddened by the untimely death of Ms Geveza and while this is a most unfortunate incident, we believe it should not detract from the success of scores of young South Africans – men and women – who are now pursuing a career in the international maritime industry.”

Careers they may have, but at what cost?

Safe Seas has this article:

Sea cadet death probe raises jurisdiction concerns
Steve Matthews, Lloyd’s List

Nautilus calls for detailed investigation into death of cadet who was lost overboard from a UK Flagged Safmarine boxship

THERE are increasing concerns about investigations into the suspicious death of 19-year-old South African officer cadet Akhona Geveza who was lost overboard from the UK-flagged Safmarine containership Safmarine Kariba on June 24 while the ship was in Croatian waters near Rijeka.

This case once again throws the spotlight on how to ensure the proper investigation of serious crimes onboard ships at sea where various legal jurisdictions are potentially involved.

Officers’ trade union Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson has written to UK secretary of state for transport Phillip Hammond, urging that a proper investigation is undertaken regarding the circumstances surrounding her death.

Ms Geveza was onboard the Safmarine ship as part of an arrangement with South African harbour authority Transnet to provide seagoing opportunities for Transnet cadets. Transnet specifically encourages the recruitment of young South African women as officer trainees.

In particular there are concerns that she had previously made allegations that she was raped by the ship’s Ukrainian chief officer. It has been claimed that other South African cadets have made similar allegations. Safmarine told Lloyd’s List that it “has not received any complaints of sexual harassment taking place onboard its vessels”.

In his letter Mr Dickinson says: “We believe it is particularly important that the UK, as flag state, takes a highly visible leading role in seeking to establish the truth of the allegations and – if true – to ensure that appropriate action is taken.”

It calls on the Department for Transport to do everything possible to secure a full and transparent investigation.

Mr Dickinson has also written to UK Home Secretary Theresa May expressing concern at the lack of information about any criminal enquiries into the allegations. He says it is unclear whether investigations are being carried out by the South African police, the Croatian police, or the British police. An added complication is that the Ukrainian chief officer left the vessel in Port Said, Egypt.

A spokeswoman for Safmarine told Lloyd’s List that investigations into the death are still underway. She said that Safmarine was co-operating with authorities investigating the matter, which include the Croatian police, South African Maritime Safety Authority and the UK Marine Accident and Investigation Branch.

However, Lloyd’s List understands that the MAIB is not actively investigating the incident as it normally defers to any ongoing police investigation, which in this case appears to be in the hands of the Croatian police.

A DfT spokesperson said to Lloyd’s List: “This is a tragic incident and we extend our sympathies to the family of Ms Geveza. This is now the subject of a criminal investigation and we are happy to assist if asked. However, it is not for the DfT to intervene in a police enquiry.”

Lloyd’s List contacted the Croatian police but at the time of going to press they were unable to give any information on the status or progress of the investigation.

A spokesman for the UK Home Office said to Lloyd’s List that British police involvement in such international investigations usually follows a mutual legal assistance request from authorities in other countries, but the Home Office does not confirm or deny whether such requests have been made in individual cases. Lloyd’s List understands that British police are not currently conducting an investigation into this incident.

This uncertainty about how the death is being investigated highlights fears that the various jurisdictions involved could end up with an inadequate investigation taking place into an extremely serious criminal offence.

Nautilus is concerned that the case has important implications for the international maritime industry and especially ensuring equal opportunities as the industry seeks to attract more women seafarers. “There must be no whitewash and no cover-up,” Mr Dickinson said.

The union has tabled a motion, in co-operation with the South African Transport Workers Union, at this week’s International Transport Workers Federation Congress in Mexico City. It expresses concern that “these allegations could damage irreparably the image of shipping as a career choice for young people and especially among young women”.

It calls on the ITF to ensure that Ms Geveza’s family receive justice with a full and open investigation and action concerning all allegations of abuse by Transnet cadets and that any conclusions are implemented quickly. The ITF should “send a message to the shipping industry that the worldwide maritime trade union family will not tolerate this kind of treatment of any seafarer on any ship and redouble its efforts to support the eradication of harassment and bullying at sea and the promotion of mutual respect and equal opportunities in shipping”.

and again from Safe Seas:

Croatian police wrap up Safmarine cadet death probe
Steve Matthews, Lloyd’s List

CROATIAN police have concluded their investigation into the death of 19-year-old South African cadet Akhona Geveza, whose body was found in the sea off Rijeka on June 24 after she went overboard from the Safmarine containership Safmarine Kariba. The Director of Police Administration for Primorsko-goranska region told Lloyd’s List that it had concluded a criminal investigation into the death and submitted a report to the State Attorney’s office in Rijeka. It will decide on what, if any, further action will be taken. However, he did not reveal the findings of the investigation or the content of the report. He confirmed that no police forces from any other countries were involved in the investigation. Suspicions were aroused when it was revealed that Ms Geveza had made allegations of rape against the vessel’s Ukrainian chief officer. She was onboard the Safmarine vessel as part of a scheme enabling cadets of South Africa’s National Ports Authority Transnet to gain seagoing experience. The incident prompted further allegations by Transnet cadets of sexual harassment onboard vessels. Transnet spokesman John Ddudlu said: “Transnet is currently reviewing the cadet maritime programme and, through its employee assistance programme, has appointed independent service providers to conduct one-on-one interviews with all the cadets who have gone through the programme. We will use their experiences to determine appropriate steps to be taken to prevent similar incidents in future. In addition, the conversations will assure cadets at sea that they have access to support should they experience any difficulties. The review is ongoing.”______
Safmarine Kariba
Owner: Safmarine, Antwerp, Belgium
Built: 2008, at Hanjin, in Korea
IMO: 9333034
Flag : UK (London)
Class: ABS
GT:74642
DWT:84676
LOA:299.5 m
Beam:40m
Design TEU :6200
From Safmarine‘s website.”Safmarine Container Lines NV is a Belgian shipping company, based in Antwerp and specialising in sea transportation of cargoes between Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent as well as operating in other trades. Our services are mainly based on fully containerised vessels but we also have a division offering services for non-unitisable break bulk and project cargo.”You can read more about this story here, here, and here. Read about the impacts to her parent’s here and here. She also has a memorial Facebook Group; her actual Facebook page is here.

This article has 5 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting, I had not even heard about this… even it happened almost a month ago, I'm losing touch.

    I find it very sad and disturbing. Sadly the nature of the biz, justice will practically be non existing.

    The only thing we have going for us on board is the close bond between shipmates on a small crew, like a family and the order it brings.

    I can imagine the destructive atmosphere when this concept is shattered.

    Cadets have long been undervalued and bullied. I was never a fan of that "well I went through, so must you" attitude. This story is far beyond this and tragic but certainly bring in added problem of the industry to make life on board, not only attractive, but safe.

  2. You'd be surprised. In the Philippines, the world's top crew supplier, the exploitation and abuse of cadets start long before they board their first ship. Probably the worst because it's widespread and considered "normal practice" is the flunkey system where cadets work as unpaid office help in exchange for a chance to get a shipboard slot. These cadets serve coffee to visitors, clean the toilets, run errands for the office secretaries and drive for the company boss. The system demeans not only the individual but the merchant marine profession. So much for the "Year of the Seafarer."

    BTW, you may want to check out my Marine Cafe Blog and add it to your blogroll, a gesture I would gladly reciprocate.

  3. The SATAWU Statement is very good.
    Thanks Martin for finding it. I hope the agencies investigating this can pull their collective thumbs out and lay charges against the responsible parties.

  4. Yes, that is surprising and discouraging to hear of the situation in the Philippines. All too often young cadets are being taken advantage of.

    By the way, you are, and have been for some time, on the blog roll. See under "other maritime bloggers" at the right of this blog; "Philippines – Marine Cafe"

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