Tackling corruption together: A call for collaboration

The knowledge of how to fight corruption is growing, and the effect of these learnings can be amplified if business, governments and international institutions work together.

By Kristin Berglund, Head of Anti-Corruption & Foreign Trade Controls, Maersk Line

It is estimated that 90 percent of everything is transported by a ship. As the largest shipping company, Maersk Line contributes to the United Nation's agenda for sustainable development by enabling trade and thereby enhancing opportunities for employment and prosperity.
Critical to our business, are the realisation of two of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals: goal 16, to build transparent and accountable institutions, and goal 17, to form partnerships to drive the broader agenda.

Corruption is one of the most serious risks we face as a global business. The Asian Development Bank, for example, has found that corruption can cost a country up to 17 percent of its gross domestic product. Corruption is also increasingly recognised for its role in other global issues such as security, poverty, hunger and the threats against our environment - all included in various Sustainable Development Goals. For us in the maritime industry we experience corruption risks that can be described as acute.

Seafarers have faced physical force, including a captain being shoved with a rifle; being pulled off their ship and interrogated, threatened with imprisonment; pilot boats refusing to guide a vessel to berth or even ramming the vessel; tug officials cutting a vessel's tug lines; nightly sweep type operations of the ship by officials performed as many times as it takes in order for a tired crew to give up- all for refusing to provide a carton of cigarettes or cases of soda in exchange for receiving routine government services. These risks are often labelled facilitation payment issues - but it is a misleading terminology. There is nothing facilitated or gained but safety and access to government services.

Mobilizing stakeholders
Recognising the need for collective action, Maersk Line in 2011 initiated the Maritime Anti-corruption Network (MACN) - the first of its kind in the maritime industry - which today has more than 60 members. The network aims to strengthen members' anti-corruption programmes and to improve their operating environments.

In one flagship project, MACN collaborated with the Nigerian government and the UN Development Programme on improving transparency and accountability in Nigerian ports. Out of that initiative, the Nigerian government in June unveiled a set of "Standard Operating Procedures" for port operations, to stem corrupt practices.

In a new partnership, Maersk Line paired with the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden, to build anti-corruption training to the curriculum for maritime government officials from around the world. The course on integrity issues was held for all students in October this year.

Creating change
For years, Maersk Line has tested various strategies and in 2015 rolled out a data driven strategy to clamp down on the extortions faced by our frontline. Based on incident tracking data, collected from each ship at each port call, 8 operations clusters around the world triaged their countries and began location specific support to the captains. The support included tackling the underlying frames often used to create an extortion, such as unclear local requirements, and a 24-hour support for vessels from each region's operations cluster, allowing a captain to escalate issues in real time.

The results have been dramatic. Since 2015 we have seen a more than 90% percent reduction of these so called facilitation payments in some of our most challenged trading areas.

While we have found effective strategies, one thing is clear - corruption cannot be fought by anyone acting alone and until more is done, the threat to our seafarers remain high. Industry, governments and organisations must collaborate even if doing so is not always easy or produces immediate rewards.

A blueprint for government-industry collaboration
Based on the methods proven effective by our new anti-corruption strategy we designed a blue-print of how governments and companies can collaborate in tackling corruption. The model targets corruption risks many companies identify as their highest - those taking place in foreign operations. Companies and embassies of their home country will identify high risk processes, prone to corruption risk, and work together to seek practical solutions and create support systems. The model is premised on avoiding either party to be placed in a situation where they risk losing political or business relationships. We are now looking for governments willing to test it. The response so far is positive. If proven effective in a collaborative setting the model could be adopted on a larger scale. This would not only assist Maersk Line in reducing the threat to our frontline and level the playing field but provide a tool to combat corruption benefitting companies, governments and civil society in and outside of the maritime sector.