The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Maersk Line Limited, a leading provider of marine cargo services and the largest subsidiary of Maersk, to reinstate a seaman and pay $457,759 in back wages, interest, compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages, after it dismissed him for reporting numerous safety concerns about a company´s vessel to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The company must also revise its policy to not prohibit seamen from contacting the USCG or other federal, state or local regulatory agencies before first notifying the company.

In December 2020, the seaman reported a variety of safety concerns about the vessel Safmarine Mafadi, a 50,000-ton, 958-foot container ship to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia Maersk Line Limited responded by suspending the seaman in December 2020, and then terminated his employment in March 2021, for making the complaint without notifying the company first.

According to U.S. department release, investigators learned the seaman reported a variety of safety concerns about the vessel to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The safety concerns were that the gear used to release lifeboats did not work properly and needed repair and replacement, on several occasions a ship’s trainee was alone and unsupervised while on ship’s watch, including during one incident when a fuel and oil spill occurred that took the crew two days to clean, and could have created an environmental spill, crew members possessing and possibly consuming alcohol onboard, two leaks in the starboard tunnel found during an inspection and the bilge system caused flooding in cargo holds and needed need of repair. Furthermore rusted, corroded and broken deck sockets needed repair and replacement.

A federal whistleblower investigation has determined that Maersk Line Limited suspended and terminated a seaman illegally after the seaman reported numerous safety concerns about a company vessel to the U.S. Coast Guard, says the U.S. department of labor’s occupational safety and health administration.

OSHA ruled that Maersk Line Limited’s termination of the seaman violated the federal Seaman’s Protection Act.

According to seaman’s protection act, seaman may report concerns directly to the USCG and are not required to follow any company policy that requires employees to report first to the company. The law protects the rights of seamen aboard a U.S.-registered vessel, or any vessel owned by a U.S. citizen to report safety concerns or violations of maritime laws and to cooperate with federal officials at any time.

“Federal law protects a seaman’s right to report safety concerns to federal regulatory agencies, a fact every maritime industry employer and vessel owner must know,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “Failure to recognize these rights can instill a culture of intimidation that could lead to disastrous or deadly consequences. The order underscores our commitment to enforcing whistleblower rights that protect seamen.”