In a team effort spanning operations, ship management, captains and legal, Maersk Line is implementing a new data-driven strategy for confronting the improper demands for payment faced by its vessels, and it is drawing inspiration from an unlikely source: the New York District Attorney’s Office.
“There haven’t been a lot of success stories in the industry when it comes to countering facilitation payments. We started by looking at systematic strategies for targeting crime in general,” says Maersk Line’s Senior Legal counsel, Kristin Berglund, who heads up its anti-corruption programme.
"We’ve proudly ‘stolen’ ideas and strategies from some of the most successful district attorneys in New York who managed to turn around the city’s crime scene dramatically,” she says.
For its part, Maersk Line has been collecting data on its vessels’ facilitation payments since 2011 and is looking for ways to use the information in the battle against corruption. And, that’s where New York’s much heralded crime-busting efforts come in.
Maersk has a strict zero-tolerance policy on bribery, yet facilitation payments remain a challenge for the shipping industry as a whole. While bribes are payments to obtain something the giver is not entitled to receive, facilitation payments are small payments such as cash, cigarettes or soft drinks demanded by low-level public officials in order to perform routine duties. The small payments are so ingrained in some ports that officials consider them customary or part of their salaries.
Refusing to pay can lead to expensive commercial delays for a vessel or even threats to the crew.
The New York model has two main elements that Maersk Line is adapting to its shipping activities.
The first is the so-called “quality of life crime” policing strategy, which consists of going after the small offences that affect people’s quality of life by creating an environment of disorder and diminishing people’s trust in the system.
Maersk Line is targeting facilitation payments, which, while small, can place a significant mental strain on a captain and crew, creating inefficiency and impairing the integrity of the system in the process. Pilots, who board a vessel to guide it to berth, have refused to do so, in order to extort cigarettes, and captains have faced the use of physical force.
Mapping the data
The second element the company has adopted is New York’s strategy of using data to map out crime activity and go after repeat serious offenders known as ‘crime drivers’.
Maersk Line has launched a mapping project, based on its facilitation payment data. The fleet’s administration software, WIN-ADMI, logs all supplies that go on and off a ship, tracking the cigarette cartons or soft drinks that are given away. Where facilitation payments cannot be avoided, captains are required to record who made the demand and what the circumstances were. The Liner Operations Clusters – or clusters – are now tasked with using that data to target the offending ports.
“When one country is particularly bad, it tends to have a ripple effect on the surrounding countries. When a captain has had a very tough experience at one port, he’s fatigued and demoralised. Countering the demands at the next port will be more challenging and the likelihood of succeeding in that encounter is reduced,” says Berglund.