A new call for a full UK investigation into the suspicious death of female Safmarine cadet Akhona Geveza has been made in the UK House of Lords [on March 3].
Baroness Jane Campbell called a for full probe into the death of the 19-year-old South African cadet who died after falling overboard from the 6,696-teu Safmarine Kariba (built 2008) last June, shortly after allegedly telling colleagues she had been raped by one of the ship’s officers.
Although the accident happened off the coast of Croatia, the vessel – owned by the AP Moller-Maersk subsidiary – is flagged in the UK.
Baroness Campbell said in a House of Lords debate marking the centenary year of International Women’s Day: “The seafarers’ union, Nautilus International, has called for a full investigation into the death of cadet Geveza.
“That is surely the least that we should do in response to the tragic death of this young woman?”
Earlier this year, after a meeting with UK transport minister Mike Penning Nautilus told TradeWinds: “We do not believe the UK flag is doing what it should be doing in finding out what exactly went on.”
A Croatian police report into the incident later concluded that she committed suicide after taking pills and also drinking poisonous liquids. It also said she was in a consensual relationship with an officer.
Nautilus has some doubts over the report, which at one point describes the relationship between Geveza and the officer as “consensual but rough”.
Baroness Campbell, who is a well-know disability rights campaigner and is disabled herself, also drew attention to the particular pressures on female seafarers.
For women, living and working on board ship requires great dedication, tolerance and self-belief. Often they will be the only female on board, with a group of men used to a male only environment. At sea it is impossible to walk away, to change one’s surroundings, or one’s ship-mates.”
She added: “Many women are employed on cruise ships. Whilst there are good employers, tales of bullying and sexual harassment continue to taint the reputation of the cruise industry.
“Women from developing countries often secure employment only after making payments to dubious agencies. These women are exploited even before they have set foot on board.”
The Baroness, who is the wife of maritime debt chaser Roger Symes, also criticised the UK government’s decision this week to stop core funding for the International Labour Organisation, which has worked to tackle such problems.
“The ILO has a vital strategic role in protecting seafarers’ rights and in getting governments and the shipping industry to adopt the policies of equality and protection from abuse and exploitation that we ashore take for granted. The ILO is an organisation that the shipping industry cannot ignore.
“I hope the government will ensure that its vital role in working towards equality for women seafarers is protected.”