January 25, 2023
Senior Director of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Supply Chain Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
During a panel at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Sector Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking event, Sam Cho, commissioner at the Port of Seattle, and Derek Miller, government relations manager at the American Association of Port Authorities, discussed strategies to raise human trafficking awareness in the maritime sector.
Seaports Play a Role in Preventing Human Trafficking
Cho and Miller said that labor trafficking is more prevalent than sex trafficking in the maritime sector. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, labor trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”
The Port of Seattle developed a four-step plan for the maritime industry to combat labor trafficking:
- Public awareness
- Appropriate protocols and standard operating procedures
Miller said, “Ports can serve as the first line of defense and the first place where an educated workforce can spot something that’s wrong.”
The Maritime Industry Continues to Invest in Preventive Efforts
In addition to training employees, the Port of Seattle has invested in supporting trafficking survivors.
The port created the Port Allies Against Human Trafficking pledge, which calls on its partners and tenants to raise awareness of the signs and behaviors of human trafficking with their employees.
Miller expressed the importance of working with maritime tenants to help spread awareness. “Even if they’re not your employees, if they’re your tenants or if they’re truckers, there’s an opportunity for them to see what the initiative is at the port and how they can participate.”
Port Leaders Share Strategies for Spreading Trafficking Awareness
Cho and Miller cited two distinct hurdles for private sector leaders to get on board with spreading awareness.
First, Cho said that the board was concerned that once training was implemented, it could disrupt the employees’ work schedules. Second, Miller noted that trafficking may lead to a negative perception of ports, and employees fear discussing trafficking because it may make seem like there’s a significant problem.