News & Updates

Port Tampa Bay Leads Fight Against Human Trafficking at Sea

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and to support this occasion, Port Tampa Bay is committed to preventing human trafficking by increasing awareness throughout their facilities and becoming the first port authority in the nation to receive Ports to Freedom human trafficking awareness training from Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Combatting Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award.

BEST and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) received this national award to conduct the Not Alone awareness campaign and provide in person training for seaport employees. This powerful initiative aims to raise awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking in the maritime industry by increasing employee awareness of the indicators of human trafficking and helping victims of human trafficking know who to contact for help.

On January 22, 2024, Port Tampa Bay is training employees with BEST’s Ports to Freedom human trafficking prevention training. Throughout January, the port is participating in the Not Alone awareness campaign by placing multi-lingual signs throughout port facilities to encourage both victims and bystanders to become aware of the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

“Every person deserves a life of dignity. I am proud of Port Tampa Bay’s partnership with BEST and our actions to bring awareness and lead toward an end of the scourge of human trafficking. Our staff and port partners take pride on being at the forefront of this issue,” explained Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay President & CEO. “This training, which targets the maritime community, will raise life-changing awareness to our staff and port partners.”

Human trafficking is a global problem, affecting millions of lives. Labor trafficking is a form of exploitation that can happen easily at sea, where victims are often extremely isolated, their work is happening in international waters, and there can be confusion about which country’s labor laws are being followed. Workers exploited at sea can often only ask for help when their vessel docks at a seaport. But in an unfamiliar country, trafficking victims may not know how they can receive assistance. When human trafficking victims see signs posted in the places they frequent, they learn they are in a safe place where they can ask for and receive help to stop abuse.

In addition, when seaport employees are properly trained to recognize the indicators of human trafficking, they can learn how to safely report it.

“Awareness campaigns like Not Alone, combined with our maritime industry employee training course, Ports to Freedom, enable safe and effective reporting of human trafficking incidents at port authorities and help victims find paths to freedom,” describes Kirsten Foot, PhD, CEO & Execuctive Director for Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking. “We are absolutely thrilled to see Port Tampa Bay taking this training and posting signage throughout their facilities to help more human trafficking victims get the assistance they need.”

Port Tampa Bay’s commitment to preventing human trafficking resonates far beyond its own borders. By becoming the first port authority to receive BEST’s Ports to Freedom through the Combatting Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award, they are setting a strong precedent for other seaports and transportation hubs across the country to follow suit.

“AAPA is proud to proactively educate and raise awareness of human trafficking via the Not Alone campaign, alongside our great partners such as BEST,” stated Cary Davis, CEO and President of AAPA. “I once heard a wise industry leader say, ‘Some precious cargo we just won’t move.’ We thank the USDOT for making this project possible and Port Tampa Bay for being one of the first of many seaports across the Western Hemisphere to train employees on the signs and indicators of exploitation.”