EXCLUSIVE: Collective action key to maritime anti-corruption

Lee Kok Leong, our special correspondent, talks to Cecilia Müller Torbrand, Maritime Anti-Corruption Network Program Director, about the most effective way to fight corruption in the shipping industry. 

Lee Kok Leong, our special correspondent, talks to Cecilia Müller Torbrand, Maritime Anti-Corruption Network Program Director, about the most effective way to fight corruption in the shipping industry. Collection action is key to anti-corruption efforts.

In this second part of a two-part series, Cecilia explains that a bigger membership means a stronger collective voice when speaking with governments, ports and customs and the potential of bringing real power to the table and push for change.

One of the foundations of collective action is identifying and mitigating root causes of corruption.

And in this regard, MACN has implemented with success an annonymous incident reporting system to collect relevant intelligence that helps in formulating best practices and policies.

Cecilia is an experienced anti-corruption specialist.  Previously, she has worked for more than eight years as senior compliance officer in the Maersk Group where she was responsible for anti-corruption efforts globally.

She trained management and staff worldwide; implemented whistle blowing systems; rolled out country-specific anti-corruption campaigns; and conducted risk assessments, audits, and misconduct investigations.
In 2015, she was awarded Compliance Officer of the Year by the C5 Women in Compliance Awards.

The Maritime Anti-Corruption Network(MACN) is dedicated to promoting compliance with anti-corruption laws and committed to the elimination of corrupt practices.  It has 109 members worldwide that represent over 25 percent of total global tonnage.

Corporate Fair Trade Community (CFTC):  What are some of the root causes of corruption?
MACN: The causes of corruption are as varied as the locations in which demands are made. As such, a key part of MACN’s action plan involves the anonymous collection of data on local corruption.

This information plays a major role in our collective action projects in providing industry expertise to identify the highly specific drivers of corruption in a certain port or country.

MACN’s anonymous incident reporting system enables shipping companies and seafarers to submit reports on corrupt demands they have faced during port operations.

These anonymous incident reports provide MACN with a strong platform to better understand the challenges and to engage with stakeholders, including governments, on shared solutions. It also allows members to learn from each other to potentially avoid similar incidents in their own operations.

The use of this reporting platform has significantly increased over the years. To date, we have collected over 28,000 reports of corrupt demands globally.

We use this data to analyze trends in frequency of incidents, allowing us to target collective action efforts and engage with governments. It has been a highly effective way to facilitate a constructive dialogue in meetings with governments and other stakeholders.

Reporting is anonymous and non-attributable. It is not possible for anyone to identify who has submitted a report, and the incident does not include details that would identify specific dates, ships, or individuals.

CFTC: For shipping companies, how can they fight corruption?
MACN:  MACN’s collective action program means you are not alone in saying no to corrupt demands.  The vessel before you would have said no, as will the next ship calling. Crews and commercial operations will be protected by tested processes and procedures, and by the weight of numbers.

We now have over 100 members. Members range from some of the largest ship owners to small local port agents.  The group includes much of the maritime value chain.  MACN has real power to push for change, and our collective voice is stronger when addressing issues with governments.

Members can discuss challenges with each other, learn about new solutions to tackle corruption and become better able to support their front-line workers.  Ultimately, joining MACN means having a greater impact in the industry and a better work environment for front-line employees.

CFTC: What are the major challenges they face and how to overcome?
MACN: We know that companies who say no to corrupt demands have safer employees, but the journey to get to “no” requires true commitment.  For many companies, saying no can’t be done alone.  For captains and other private sector actors to be able to say no to demands for facilitation payments, they must feel supported by strong policies and principles.

MACN provides a safe forum for engagement through which members can share challenges and best-practice, collectively assessing the areas for improvement in their internal procedures and approaches and developing open-sourced solutions.

Following the MACN Anti-Corruption Principles, MACN develops shared methodologies, frameworks, trainings, and campaigns, helping each member company to strengthen its approach to tackling corruption.

Collective Action is an important tool to help the private sector take proactive steps to tackle corruption, with companies joining forces and engaging governments and civil society as a group.

In MACN collective action projects, member companies unite with stakeholders including port and customs authorities, NGOs, and local governments to undertake root cause analyses and then implement a range of recommended actions to tackle corruption in ports and across the maritime supply chain.

CFTC: Please give some examples of successful fight against corruption.
MACN: Recent results from Argentina indicate that corruption incidents have decreased by more than 90 percent in 2018 in the ports targeted in MACN’s collective action project.

This drop followed the development of a new regulatory framework with the National Service of Health and Agri-Food Quality (Senasa), the development of a new IT system for processing and registering hold/tank inspections, and significant government support from the highest levels.

MACN’s “Say No” Suez campaign assessed the impact of the campaign by surveying members and collecting incident data. The situation has improved every year, and feedback in 2017 showed that companies taking part in the campaign were transiting Suez without any delays.

Demands for cigarettes have decreased dramatically, or have been eliminated, while threats to the safety of both crew and vessel have also decreased significantly.

In Nigeria, MACN’s root cause analysis of the Nigerian port sector conducted in 2013 showed that it typically took over 140 signatures to get a vessel and cargo cleared by the local authorities, with port officials having wide discretionary powers over the speed of this process.  These challenges led to an unpredictable operating environment for the private sector, and it meant costly business disruptions and delays.

Today, MACN has improved the operating environment by creating a multi-stakeholder approach, involving stakeholders such as the National Ports Authorities, the maritime industry and the Customs Service.

In strengthening transparency, MACN has developed a government training program on ethics and integrity that was successfully rolled out in Nigerian ports in 2015.

CFTC: What is your opinion of the current state of maritime industry in Asia and the Middle East?
MACN: It’s not all bad news!  Yes, corruption is an issue in many locations world-wide.  However, the shipping industry has developed world-leading best practice processes in the fight against corrupt demands.  MACN’s membership continues to grow.  There is far less acceptance that corruption is just ‘part of doing business’.

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