A global industry working together against corruption

9 December 2016

Corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world, writes the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. This is the antonym to what shipping stands for; being part of economic development by moving goods across the globe.

The shipping industry is connected to all industries in some way or form and as companies become more global, shipping is becoming an integral part in their day to day operations. This gives us a great power to drive change internationally, but it also makes us more vulnerable than other industries to global challenges, such as corruption.

“When arriving or leaving port, Captains can still face the prospect of harassment, long and expensive delays and other issues if they do not make small payments of cash, cigarettes, alcohol or other cheap items.” writes Sam Megwa, Chair of the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) in the group’s 2016 Impact Report.

This is also apparent from a study that the OECD made in 2014, finding the Transport and Storage sector the industry, second most exposed to bribes globally. Much of this is due to a high level of interaction with Government officials in “high risk” countries and from the nature of the industry, which require the involvement of a long chain of actors to complete one transportation assignment.

 Anti-corruption infographic

Joining forces to stop corruption

Corruption is in large a symptom of the lack of transparency in Governing National systems. After being built in to the system for decades, it becomes an integral part of daily operations in the countries. Fighting such a system cannot be done alone. At the same time, we cannot sit by and see it happen. In 2012, Höegh Autoliners, Maersk Line and other shipowners decided to start working together to really make a difference against corruption in the shipping industry and the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) was created.

Today, the network holds 75 of the world’s leading shipping companies as members or associate members, all working towards a common vision:

A maritime industry free of corruption that enables fair trade to the benefit of society at large.

All acts of corruption must be cracked down at

Maria Hempel, Chief Compliance Officer, Höegh Autoliners: “As a shipping company we used to see corruption almost daily, as our vessels call many countries that are struggling with corruption.” The most common type of corruption that a shipping company is experiencing is the use of facilitations payments. These may seem small and innocuous one by one, but adding up they create a serious problem.

This is one of the focus areas that the MACN has had over the last years, working together with port authorities, customs officials and government representatives to develop long-term solutions to corruption in ports. One example is the Suez Canal, where the MACN ran a successful campaign in 2016.

The Marlboro Channel

The Suez Canal is an infamous example of where shipping is meeting well an established corruption behavior. It is not for nothing that it has been given the nick-name the “Marlboro channel”. This was something the MACN wanted to change. In December 2015, the group started the “Say No” campaign for Captains passing through the Suez Canal. The Captains were given integrity packs and firm support from the ship owners to enable them to say no to the request of facilitations payments, even if it would cost the Company more in terms of lost time due to delays.

Höegh Autoliners was heading the campaign and have since experienced a change in culture when passing the Canal.

“When some of the world’s largest shipping companies join together to stop corruption in a certain area, it has an impact”, says Maria. And the impact seems to last also after the campaign is over.

Three major outcomes that MACN members report to experience after the “Say No” campaign:

1. The frequency of demands has decreased

2. Captains find it easier to refuse demands

3. Pilots are less aggressive and more forthcoming

Seven things you can do to stop corruption in your industry

Although some industries and countries are more affected than others, corruption is prevalent in all corners of the world.

If you want to do something to stop corruption in your industry, here are a few points to get you started:

1. Implement a comprehensive anti-corruption compliance program across the business

2. Make policies and procedures clear and easy to understand for everyone

3. Adopt a zero-tolerance structure

4. Ensure that the message comes from the “top”

5. Provide firm support to your front line people that may meet threats and harassment when they say no to pay bribes or facilitation payments. They need to know they have the Company behind them.

6. Conduct anti-corruption training for all staff that may meet corruption in their regular work

7. Establish an effective and confidential whistleblowing mechanism

To learn more about Höegh Autoliners’ work against corruption please read our Fair Business conduct.