“The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife”
Maersk Line is taking the fight against corruption into the classroom in the form of a new course at the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden.
“As Masters we are on the frontline of the fight against corruption,” said Captain Morten Busch. During the course held at the World Maritime University, Busch gave students a personal, first-hand account of his own experiences on board the Maersk Norfolk, which charts a route through the Mediterranean.
“At one particular port it was common practice for officials to demand cartons of cigarettes as a facilitation payment to enter. As pressure grew for us to cut these payments to zero, it became a battle. Officials resorted to different tactics. At first, we just had one official come aboard, but then we had two or three or even six. They tried to undermine and intimidate us. They insinuated what could go wrong and what retaliation could entail if we did not pay. It was highly stressful because I need the pilot’s assistance to bring the ship in safely, and it’s hard to concentrate on a dangerous job while having heated debates.
“It helped us to have the support of the anti-corruption department at Maersk. We copy them in to any correspondence with officials. I inform officials that if they break the law we will report them to the authorities and start legal proceedings. I ask them not to communicate with us on closed radio channels. It makes a big difference to have an organisation behind us in standing up to corruption. We stood firm and eventually the message got through that we don’t make facilitation payments. The results speak for themselves. Facilitation payments in Maersk Line have been reduced by over 80% and I’m confident we will reach our target of zero.”