Government suspends training at sea after student says she and others were raped
The move from the Department of Transportation, which oversees the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), came just weeks before the students embarked on their âSea Yearâ trip, in which students are usually sent in pairs to work alongside older students, mostly male crew members.
In a letter to students informing them that the program has been temporarily suspended, school and transportation officials said the academy and the shipping industry were facing a “difficult period” and the decision to stop the program was “one of the most difficult we have had”. face.”
Days earlier, lawmakers in Congress had expressed concern that academy students were at risk while participating in the Sea Year program.
Sea Year was designed to provide students at the academy, located in Kings Point, New York, with valuable experience working on commercial vessels and is one of the school’s main draws, with many hoping to become engineers and leaders. in the shipping industry. .
Officials told students on Tuesday that the Year of the Sea will not resume until they are able to come up with a detailed plan with new security measures, as demanded by lawmakers. They said navigation would not resume until December at the earliest. The letter did not provide details of the changes, but indicated that some were already underway and being discussed with the school community and the marine industry. Lawmakers had also called for the resignation of USMMA Superintendent Jack Buono, but no change in leadership was announced and Buono was one of the officials involved in Tuesday’s action.
This is the second time in five years that Sea Year has been interrupted due to concerns about sexual assault and harassment.
While she said she was too scared to report the crime at the time, she decided to share her experience after learning that nine other students currently enrolled in the academy said they were also raped. during their year of the sea.
As her story circulated among the USMMA community and others in the shipping industry, Maersk suspended five crew members and the company and the federal government investigated the reported rape.
She said the curriculum is an essential part of the school and that “if anything has been accomplished by the suspension of the first year of the sea, it is only that the problems have worsened” – claiming that more changes wide in the industry are needed to hold predators accountable and hold them. out of ships.
âIt was never my goal to see Sea Year suspended,â she wrote. “If every cadet is taken out of the industry, then yes, cadets will not be assaulted on board ships. But other sailors will always be assaulted, recent Academy graduates will still be assaulted and nothing will have changed. . ”
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