Safer Waves collaborates with the University of Winchester and Devon and Cornwall Police

17 Jan 2023

Recent surveys conducted have revealed that serious sexual assaults on UK vessels are under reported. Vulnerable victims are unsupported and unsure how to seek emotional support and guidance regarding engaging with the UK criminal justice system.

Devon and Cornwall Police, in partnership with Safer Waves, aim to provide accessible and straight-forward information, support and guidance to the seafaring community with the intention of preventing and detecting crime, developing intelligence, inspiring trust and confidence in UK policing, and bringing offenders to justice.

The objectives of the work are as follows:

1) Prepare – To develop a breadth and depth of understanding of the issues experienced by seafarers relating to sexual abuse on board.

2) Prevent – To develop a toolkit for merchant seafarers offering trauma informed confidential support, advice and guidance relating to sexual abuse committed at sea.

3) Protect – To promote increased reporting (including confidential to third parties) of sexual abuse from merchant seafarers whilst developing innovative ways to gather evidence and intelligence.

4) Pursue – To develop and enable structures and processes within UK police forces and the wider criminal justice system to bring to justice offenders that commit sexual abuse on UK vessels at sea.

A search for answers regarding reporting crime at sea to the UK police put us in contact with the National Police Chiefs Council Maritime Lead, ACC Jim Nye, of Devon and Cornwall Police.” said Becky Newdick, CEO of Safer Waves.

ACC Jim Nye immediately recognised the challenges currently facing seafarers with regards to collection of evidence, reporting crime and accessing victim support. A working group was developed at Devon and Cornwall Police, in conjunction with specialists across the UK, to find solutions to these challenges.

In order to develop these solutions further, the police working group needs to establish the frequency of these offences and the numbers of victims/survivors who may need support.

Detective Superintendent Nicky Seager, Devon and Cornwall Police, Sexual Offences Portfolio Lead:

“Devon and Cornwall police is committed to assisting to improve the support for the seafaring community who may by subject or witness to sexual offending.

This initiative with the charity Safer Waves is reflective of our commitment in policing to improve attitudes regarding sexual violence and ensure that victims of such abhorrent crimes can access appropriate support, guidance and preserve evidence effectively should they wish to engage in the criminal justice process. The survey participation and results will shape how we can deliver this most effectively and improve the safety of seafarers and reduce offending by working together.”

TK Foundation have generously granted Safer Waves the funds to conduct a survey which is being developed by a team working in the Centre for Forensic and Investigative Psychology at University of Winchester.

The University of Winchester Centre For Forensic and Investigative Psychology aims to increase understanding of the psychological processes involved in forensic and investigative settings and to determine effective practices for improving victim, suspect, perpetrator and witness experiences through research.

Maritime welfare organisations, unions and educational institutions have been asked for their input, and have kindly offered their support in distributing the survey once finalised.

Becky Newdick:

“We understand that when it comes to this subject, there is a significant degree of “survey fatigue”. However we hope that people will choose to engage with this survey, due to the fact that the results will inform some very real solutions for UK seafarers, for international seafarers who may sail on UK vessels and for those on vessels visiting UK Ports.

We also believe that any solutions we can implement within the UK will have a positive impact on the wider international maritime community.”

For further information, or to offer the support of your organisation, please email Becky Newdick at