Best Practices on vessels for combatting facilitation payment demands
The Group’s anti-corruption policy is explained in a Best Practices document. Here is a summary of the preventive actions:
- Post the anti-corruption placard and materials on the gangway and in all visible places on the vessel, including on meeting tables when sitting with officials.
- Individual crew members should be well prepared when embarking, with all the necessary paperwork in place.
- Ensure all medicine lists are correct and reflect actual supply.
- Never let public officials inspect the vessel without being accompanied by a Maersk officer. Show officials respect and be hospitable to help pacify the situation.
- Be consistent – if one vessel succeeds in reducing or rejecting demands, talk to other vessels on the same route so they know and can follow suit.
When Master Frank Warnekros of the Maersk Denver docked at a port in the Indian subcontinent on Christmas Eve last year, he was presented with a chocolate cake by Immigrations and Customs officials.
“I was told it was a gift to me,” Master Warnekros recounts. “One guy went on about how Christmas is about the spirit of giving, and that all ships give 20 cartons (of cigarettes) in return. But in my case he would accept 10 cartons. I told him I was not giving any and explained the Maersk policy, adding that I’m worried that I would be charged with bribery.”
When told that as the Captain he could “break the policy”, Master Warnekros repeated: “I intend to follow Maersk Policies.” Three more Customs officials who boarded the ship faced the same stoic stance by the Master.
“One of them said he will not make any charges against me but made the empty threat that every ship that follows will be charged three extra cartons to make up the difference. I replied that he can do what he likes in that regard. They then left.”
This incident is one out of many that Masters face when traversing ports in various countries. Defined as small payments such as cash, cigarettes or soft drinks demanded by low-level public officials to perform their routine tasks, facilitation payment demands remain a great challenge for Maersk’s anti-corruption policy, and will be high on the agenda to tackle in the coming years.
Zero payment on the Suez
Starting from December last year, all Maersk Line Limited vessels took the lead in reducing facilitation payments, where feasible stopping them all together. The project started in ports across the Indian subcontinent, as well as the Suez Canal where the ships ply.
Master Scott E. Pendleton of the Maersk Chicago says, “as one ship, it was not possible to eliminate the payments. Only acting as a fleet were we able to make this change.”
And the change has indeed been resounding. Zero facilitation payments have been achieved by Maersk Line Limited on the Suez Canal, according to General Manager Fernando Querol from Marine Execution, Operations, who confirms this through extensive fleet-wide communication. Master Pendleton recalls: “some of the Suez pilots were initially irate and complained to other pilots in their convoy, resulting in some slight delays in transit to other Maersk Line Limited vessels.”
Same policy in Maersk Line
The project has triggered some unusual responses. For example, there have been pilots stating that this is President Obama’s fault!’ In this case, Master Pendleton tried to explain to the officials that all US-flagged Maersk ships are following the same company policy.
According to Henrik Petersen, Marine Manager of West Central Asia, the same stance applies to all Maersk Line ships calling across the Indian subcontinent since last December.
“The positive results so far have only been possible with the close liaison of all involved parties from port agents to Ship Command, Cluster Operations and the Liner Operations Cluster,” he says, “this is something which takes time to implement. Involving all parties and applying pressure from all angles towards the local authorities, such as having our local agents push to avoid delays to vessels, has resulted in success.”
Petersen adds: “overall we have seen a drastic reduction in facilitation payments. While we have achieved zero payments on the Suez, some ports are a bit harder to break.”