Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Fight against bribery onboard ship must come from top down: Masterbulk ceo

Fight against bribery onboard ship must come from top down: Masterbulk ceo
To tackle bribery and corruption in the shipping industry requires a top down approach according Masterbulk ceo Nicholas Fisher.

In many parts of the world bribing local officials such port inspectors and pilots with cigarettes, alcohol or cash is an expected part of the transaction.

However, with increasingly powerful anti-corruption laws, such as the UK Bribery Act, which covers its citizens and companies not just home, but also abroad, a growing number of shipping companies are looking to stamp out what is seen as a “standard”, if illegal, practice in many locations.

Masterbulk joins some 74 companies in total that are members of the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN).

Fisher told the International Shipowning and Shipmanagement Summit in Singapore that to tackle the problem a top down approach was required from the ceo level. “You’ve got to have a programme and you’ve got to teach people what to do.”

The company has posters at all access points on vessels with messages such as “Don’t ask. We don’t pay – we report”, as brochures and FAQs, not only in English but local languages where problems occur. For example it has an FAQ for the Suez Canal where the Egyptian anti-bribery act is printed out in full in both English and Arabic, which the Master can produce when being asked for a bribe.

The company also provides shoreside support that the Master can contact to help deal with a difficult situation.

Fisher admits it is not easy to persuade seafarers that it is the correct thing to do and the initial reaction is often “no you can’t do this, I’ve been at sea for 25 years”, with a fear that the failure to pay the bribe will result in delays and a perception that “all hell will break lose”.

“In two years of doing this we’ve never had any negative consequences.” That being said he does say that as a business the company has to be prepared to accept the negative consequences if they happen.

While Masterbulk claimed a 100% success rate in not paying bribes in the Suez Canal other larger companies such as Maersk, which has many more ships transiting the waterway, did find things more difficult.