On his first arrival at port in Apapa, Nigeria, in 2014, Captain Marcin Slawecki was caught off guard.
After a difficult approach into the port, with long delays, groups of officials in uniform came on board looking for the captain. When the Immigration authorities took issue with the documentation in Slawecki’s and his crewmembers’ discharge books, they threatened him with arrest unless he paid with goods from the vessel’s stores. The price: cartons of cigarettes and cases of soda.
“I was quite stressed and didn’t know what was going on. As the captain, it’s you up against all these people in uniform,” Slawecki recounts. Nevertheless, he remained firm, refusing to hand anything over, until the authorities left the ship more than three hours later, after local agents and representatives from Maersk Nigeria had become involved.
On his first arrival at port in Apapa, Nigeria, in 2014, Captain Marcin Slawecki was caught off guard.
These sharings have proven to be one of the most effective tools so far, and truly in line with our Values.
What is a bribe and what is a facilitation payment?
- Any payment to obtain something the giver is not entitled to receive.
- Payments greater than USD 150 made to one person, and smaller payments to higher-level officials, for something the giver is entitled to receive could be potential bribes.
- Maersk has a zero tolerance policy for bribes.
- Small payments such as cash or cigarettes demanded by low-level public officials to perform routine duties, which they otherwise refuse to perform. They are given to obtain something the giver is clearly entitled to receive.
- Maersk’s policy is that facilitation payments must be opposed and avoided. If this cannot be done without significant consequences for the company or its employees, facilitation payments must be documented and reported. The Group’s ultimate goal is to eliminate facilitation payments entirely.
Demands for facilitation payments – small payments such as cash, cigarettes or soft drinks sought by low-level public officials in order to perform their routine duties – have long been a challenge for the shipping industry in Africa as well as in other parts of the world.
That is why, when Maersk Line Ship Management informed the ships of a new data-driven strategy to combat facilitation payments globally in 2015, it was met with scepticism by the captains and crews who call at African ports.
“We simply could not believe it would work. We expected a huge response from the officials, seeking to preserve their income,” says Captain Gijs IJssel de Schepper of the Maersk Cape Coast.
Yet the results of the new strategy have far surpassed all expectations.
A unified front
According to Maersk Line’s Anti-corruption Network, facilitation payments fell 84% globally during the first seven months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. Africa has been one of the key drivers, with a reduction of 92% over the same period. The biggest drop occurred in December 2015, soon after instructions on the new policy had been sent out to the vessels.
“We are surprised that we have come this far in such a short time. The whole atmosphere of interactions with the officials has changed for the better. It has removed the tension as everybody knows there will be no negotiations, no threats and there is a lot less shouting,” says IJssel de Schepper.
In some cases, officials have even stopped coming on board because there is nothing to gain, he adds. Instead they rely on the third party agents to run documents back and forth between the vessel and their offices. The agents are integrated in the anti-corruption initiative, provided with the same written instructions as the captains and directed not to pay the officials.
I love the emails we are sharing between ourselves. They boost me up for action as I know I’m not one lone rider in Africa.
In the past, the refusal to pay facilitation payments has led to expensive commercial delays for a vessel or even threats to the captain and crew.
Past incidents include:
- A captain being taken off the ship and held for hours for questioning
- Threats of imprisonment
- Use of physical force, including a captain being shoved with a rifle
- Officials conducting a sweep-type operation of the entire vessel, preventing the crew from sleeping and raising safety concerns
- Pilot boats refusing to guide a vessel to birth
- Tug officials cutting a vessel’s mooring lines
- Seafarers being denied shore leave passes to visit their families on shore
A central element of the strategy has been to increase communication and knowledge-sharing, with captains sending internal emails to one another before and after port calls, sharing their best practices and latest experiences.
“This sharing of knowledge has proven to be one of the most effective tools so far, and truly in line with our Values,” says Claudia Bech, Business Process Coordinator, Maersk Line Marine Standards.
“I love the emails we are sharing between ourselves. They boost me up for action as I know I’m not one lone rider in Africa,” says Marcin Slawecki.
Other key tools implemented globally include providing 24-hour support for vessels from each region’s operations cluster; escalating any issues in real time; as well as identifying remedies for recurring problems.
When captains run into pushback from authorities at the Apapa and Onne ports, the third-party agents report the issue to John Odunewu, Maersk Line’s Operations Performance Partner in Nigeria. He then looks at the case in question, analyses the local requirements, and escalates the issue up the authorities’ chain of command, visiting their offices if necessary.
“If pushed to the wall, we’d rather have the issue sorted out via official channels than leave and give something under the table, even if we are one hundred percent entitled to the service,” Odunewu says.
Keith Svendsen, Vice President of Operations Execution at Maersk Line, applauds the results, which he says will have a positive impact in the world in the long run while improving the lives of our seafarers:
“Tackling corruption is important, and we want to make an impact by saying ‘No’ to facilitation. This is easy to say sitting in an office building in Copenhagen. It is an entirely different situation out in the world. The positive results and changes we are seeing have been delivered by our people taking a stand, and by having communication on-board the vessels, in the ports and with vendors and authorities.”
Zero tolerance in Mexico
Working with authorities, Maersk Line has been able to eliminate facilitation payments at the port in Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico.
According to Mario Veraldo, Managing Director of Maersk Line’s Middle America Cluster:
"This is something that tampers with the country's reputation, but also it is just bad for business," he says. "It is something that we'll fight hard against."
The cost of corruption
Corruption – the abuse of public or private office for personal gain – is one of the main obstacles to sustainable economic, political and social development. It erodes public trust, undermines the rule of law and increases the cost of doing business. It is also increasingly being recognised as a precursor of global security threats such as extremism and terrorism.* More than USD 1 trillion in bribes are paid each year**, and corruption can cost a country up to 17 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)***.
*Sarah Chayes, Thieves of State; echoed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron
**World Bank Institute
***Asian Development Bank
A strategy blueprint
Maersk Line has collected data the facilitation payments paid by its owned vessels since 2011. Where facilitation payments cannot be avoided, captains are required to document and report them. Marine Standards in Maersk Line Ship Management follows up on reported cases.
Maersk Line has complete insight in the dealings of its owned vessels and works with its supply chain and chartered vessels to increase their level of reporting.
Inspired by New York City’s data-driven strategy for fighting crime, in 2015 Maersk Line’s Anti-corruption Network decided to make use of the data from its owned fleet to target offending ports around the world. Each Liner Operations Cluster was tasked with mapping countries by risk level and crafting an action plan to combat facilitation payments.
“As in most parts of our business, we rely heavily on data to form an unrivalled benchmark. The comprehensive empirical comparison of our performance drives our actions and helps us focus,” says Claudia Bech, Business Process Coordinator, Maersk Line Marine Standards.
Most of the effect from the action plans came at the end of 2015. As in Africa, significant reductions have been achieved in Far East Asia, West Central Asia, North Europe and Russia.
Maersk Line is now looking at how to apply the strategy on a broader scale beyond the company.
“We’re putting together a blueprint so that we can share our learnings with governments and enlist them in the battle against corruption. We aspire to a future in which governments and the private sector work together to tackle corruption,” says Kristin Berglund, Head of Anti-corruption in Maersk Line.
The Nigerian government has already made great strides, in collaboration with the Maritime Anti-corruption Network, of which Maersk is an active driver. In June 2016, the government introduced a set of Standard Operating Procedures, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of port officials, in order to promote accountability and prevent corruption.
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