Fighting corruption at sea

7 December 2018

In this article, one of our Captains shares his story from encountering corruption at sea, a situation seafarers around the globe meet all too often. It all took place one evening in January 2018, when his vessel arrived at port on the coast of West Africa.

Immediately after the ramp is down, a group of people from Customs, Immigration, Police and the Harbour Master enters the vessel together with the agent. The men are in a hurry and they walk quickly in to the vessel. The Captain explains,

As per procedure, my watchman logs the visitors in the ISPS logbook and starts preparing the Identity Cards. However, instead of waiting for him to complete his task, the men walk straight to the elevator and up to the accommodation area. One of the crew run to give them their access cards, but it is too late. The authorities say they have already entered the vessel, and that we have performed a violation.

Authorities issue demands

The authorities want the vessel to pay USD 5 000 for the violation. A fee that the Captain does not agree to.

The Captain continues,

When I refuse to give them any money, they start checking every corner of the galley to find something wrong. Here comes violation No.2. They find a carton of eggs that are out of date. This is obviously a fault on our side as we overlooked it when checking the expiry dates, but still, I will not give in to another USD 5 000 demand for just a few eggs.

Request receipt and payment over bank transfer

The Captain tells the Port Authorities that he will not pay until the violations are proven valid. He says he will not pay in cash, but if the violations are proven valid, the Company will pay the fine over a bank transfer. The authorities are now agitated and threaten that a group of quarantine personnel will come on board to check further, and say that the vessel will possibly be delayed on its sailing time. However, the Captain stands by his decision and instead of giving in, he contacts the Compliance Officer in Oslo.

The Captain says,

I immediately reported the incident to our Chief Compliance Officer. She supported my decision and said that I should not give in to their demands.

The vessel sailed on time from the port without paying any of the so-called "fines".

Credit to Captain

Maria Hempel, Chief Compliance Officer says,

This is a port where we have seen several requests for facilitation payment, since we started reporting on corruption. The Captain handled the situation very well by not giving in to the demands but stayed calm and professional. According to our procedures, a fine should always be verified and paid via bank transfer, through the Head Office.


The Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN)

Höegh Autoliners is one of the founders of MACN; a global business network working towards the vision of a maritime industry free of corruption that enables fair trade to the benefit of society at large. MACN was established in 2011 by a small group of committed maritime companies, and has grown to include over 100 members globally. Representing 25 per cent of the global fleet, it is now one of the pre-eminent examples of collective action to tackle corruption.