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UN International Anti-Corruption Day - Shipping leads the way

Over the last ten years, the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) has grown from a handful of shipping companies opposed to corruption, into one of the world’s most successful private sector anti-corruption initiatives.

We have changed the discussion from ‘can we oppose corrupt demands’ to ‘here are effective and proven ways to drive change.’ For an industry that is often divided, we have shown what can be achieved – on one of the society’s most challenging issues - when we work together.

MACN’s operational model, and its success, has been based on collaboration, inclusiveness, and collective action. From the earliest of days, we recognized that no one company, regulator, or person could drive the systemic change needed across the entire maritime supply chain. But we realized that by bringing together multiple stakeholders including seafarers, companies, local authorities, and community groups, we could challenge the status quo where corruption was accepted as something we could never change.

Industry collaboration

MACN now includes over 160 companies, making up over 50% of the world’s tonnage. Our membership includes Flag States, port agents, shipping companies, cargo owners, and ship management. The past few years, the IMO has also put corruption on its agenda, providing powerful support for the multistakeholder approach that is needed to create change.

The level of industry support MACN has received shows the industry will not accept corruption as being an acceptable part of business. It also makes collective action so much more effective. One company, ship, or Captain rejecting a corrupt demand can only achieve so much. Every ship making the same stand will change how operations are conducted.

Collaboration at sea

A key part of MACN’s work has been engaging and working with the seafaring community. Their involvement in MACN’s work has been a critical part in our success and development because they are the men and women who face the threats, harassment, and personal consequences of corruption.

MACN has received close to 50,000 anonymous reports of corrupt demands over the last ten years.  This is now one of the largest industry-specific corruption datasets ever collected. The fact we have been able to collect these demands tells us that seafarers do not expect or want this to be part of their job, and that companies are more than willing to make a stand to support their crew. This, in turn, has driven the development of MACN’s front line tools and education material.  It has also led directly to the development of onshore support for ships and crew calling ports where corruption is a known problem.

Collaboration onshore

Laws, regulation, and company policy are an important part of developing an anti-corruption compliance framework. But complementing this oversight with immediate anti-corruption support is critical. MACN has seen the impact of involving local stakeholders, including governments and local authorities, to tackle corruption risks.  MACN’s HelpDesk model has been highly effective, providing crew and companies with immediate local support when issues around integrity occur and in some of the countries. The HelpDesks also play a critical role in linking the efforts of governments, seafarers, companies, and provide a concrete role for how governments can get involved in the change.

To a seafarer, local support in real time is a very tangible and immediate display of the effort that MACN has put into fighting corruption. However, the work and collaboration that sits in behind that call is considerable and reaches right across the industry and involving governments as well.

Next steps

The future for MACN, and our members, is both deep and wide. Depth comes in the form of providing more tools to seafarers, working with the authorities and regulators in existing and new markets, and addressing the root causes of corruption in a range of locations. Width will come from increasing our work up the logistics supply chain. The future is very positive. As more people become aware of the progress the shipping industry has made, the more they will see how MACN’s work can be applied to their social and economic environment.