Shipping company may not fire a naked captain who had himself massaged by sailors

This is apparent from a decision made public yesterday by the Rotterdam subdistrict court.

Sunbathing and massages

The man has been employed by the shipping company since 2011, which has a fleet of 32 seagoing vessels that sail around the world. After a voyage as captain on a gas tanker with 16 personnel from South Korea in the second half of 2020, the shipping company received complaints about the man’s behaviour.

In conversations, the captain admitted that in his spare time he liked to lie naked on board in the sun. He also confirmed that he was regularly massaged by subordinates, who often have a Filipino or Indonesian nationality.

To prevent them from feeling forced, he had the boatswain ask. He also paid for the massages, 20 euros per hour and a half.


According to the captain, nude recreation usually took place on an upper deck, where no one was bothered by it. The sunbathing and massages would have been intended for relaxation and would have had no sexual charge. According to the captain, he had been doing this for years, and it had never been a problem.

However, his employer thought it was a problem and wanted to kick him out after a few conversations. Because the parties failed to reach an agreement on a severance package, the shipping company went to court in May to have the employment contract dissolved.

According to the shipping company, sexually transgressive behavior has been going on for years, which has created an unsafe situation on board. According to the employer, it must guarantee the safety of all those on board, and the reputation is at stake. That’s why the captain should be fired.

Free-spirited seventies

The captain objected that he had apologized several times and had promised to stop sunbathing and massages in the nude. He pointed out that he had “raised in the free-spirited 1970s,” and it was only after the employer’s complaints that he realized that his behavior no longer fit the current times.

The Rotterdam Subdistrict Court leaves no doubt that he disapproves of the captain’s behavior.

MeToo discussion

“Sunning naked on board and having crew members give themselves a massage results in undesired behavior on the part of a captain. Such behavior not only affects the authority of the captain and highest in rank on board the ship, but that behavior also does not fit in with the current juncture, partly in view of the MeToo discussion,” the statement said.

On the other hand, the Subdistrict Court ruled that there was no question of sexually transgressive behaviour. He also believes that the shipping company should have given the captain the opportunity to improve his life, and wrongly immediately aimed for dismissal.

Resignation request rejected

Therefore, the Subdistrict Court rejected the dismissal request. It is still unclear whether this means that the captain can actually return to work on the ships of the shipping company or that the employer will look for another solution.

Attorney Jelle Kloosterman of the shipping company says he cannot comment on the case yet. The captain’s lawyer, Michelle de Kip, could not be reached for an explanation.

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