Suez Canal still tops the ranks when it comes to shipping bribes

The Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) has released the results and lessons learned from 10 years of collecting data of cancerous, corrupt demands in maritime trade.

This data has been collected in over a decade through MACN’s Anonymous Incident Reporting platform, a system designed to allow the maritime industry to report when it has been faced with corrupt demands in ports globally.

To date, the reporting system has close to 50,000 incidents reported in over 1,000 ports, across 149 countries with the Suez Canal topping the corruption ranks.

Corruption is having a real impact on trade and livelihoods

This report – the first of its kind covering maritime corruption – provides a unique insight into the scale, type, and volume of corruption in the maritime supply chain.

Across the world’s ports, corrupt demands are most commonly made for cigarettes, alcohol, and cash.

According to MACN data, the most commonly reported actors to demand bribes are port authorities (20.9%), pilots (16.5%), customs (12.7%), and port agents (8.2%).

“While multiple actors are reportedly involved in making corrupt demands, the consequence of rejecting such demands is similar across the world’s ports – delay of the vessel, which has knock-on detrimental effects,” MACN stated.

“At a time when supply chains and economies are under increasing pressure, corruption is having a real impact on trade and livelihoods – onshore and at sea,” said MACN CEO, Cecilia Müller Torbrand.

During the Covid-19 pandemic MACN has noticed that the incidents have dropped in numbers, most likely due to reduced interaction with port authorities and increased adoption of electronic systems for vessel clearance.

MACN is looking to make the incident data available to its members through country and port profiles, to help members understand corruption risks across the world and better prepare for port calls.

“In an ideal world, every seafarer has an app on their phone which allows them to report and review data in real time. There is a need to decentralise data collection and reporting, and technology can help with that,” commented Martin Krafft, vice president of fleet management at Fednav.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. I am not surprised to see these practises continuing. In my time at sea and then for many years after as a superintendent I witnessed many acts, mainly in Egypt of bribery demands. On one trip through the Suez canal the pilot had a complete shopping list including toilet rolls, fly spray, coffee, etc. In Sidi Kerir the loading would be stopped to allow a helicopter to land on deck to load up with cartons of Marlboro and cases of whiskey. What was the cost of that?

    1. I am Egyptian working in shipping & I am really sorry for that
      Really sorry that this is our reputation in the world , we are very good at work we can do excellent work in logistics, shipping but we also ruin all this by these greedy stupid bribes .

      We try to change that & to force people not to accept giving or taking bribes .. it’s really hard but we’re still trying

      Sorry again

  2. As a master, going through the “sewage canal” I used to hate giving these “gifts”. They debase everyone. Time to clean the place up, though I think there is less than zero chance of that happening. Its ingrained in the people.

  3. We are only touching the tip of the iceberg in this sort of thing. More worrying should be the actions of some in ship inspections, port state control and related safety requirements. In these situations it remains common in some parts of the world and with some operators to use bribery to pass an inspection, or be threatened with detention if the bribe is not paid. Not excusing the tipping of pilots in the canal, but we seem to like to forget the more ugly parts of this type of practice in the industry.

  4. Very happy that this topic is finally being openly discussed. Ship masters have been forced to give bribes to all sorts of people so that their ship is not delayed/ detained on some trumped up issue.

  5. Seafarers are also liable to be criminalised in some jurisdictions that see these ‘gift giving’ as illegal. A study was done at the Seafarers International Research Centre, where some of this also emerged:
    The report of that study can be found at: The relationships between seafarers and shore-side personnel: An outline report based on research undertaken in the period 2012-2016 by Sampson, H., Acejo, I., Ellis, N., Tang, L. and Turgo, N. April 2016. https://www.sirc.cf.ac.uk/SIRC_Free_Online_Reports.aspx

  6. 2021 Lagos. Immigration checked documents. My new yellow vaccinition did not have a sticker from yellow fever. My first had it. Penalty only USD 1000. Immigration left alftef collecting USD 3000.
    Mariopol, harbour masyef checking ships documents for overdue. He said “big problem”. Captain reply ” a 500 or 1000 USD problem”. Since overdue documents, certificates are taken out. Also other offocials put penalties. At some moment the ships cash wss empty. Officials asked captain to borrow from crew, which he refused. Then no more penalties.

    Not every case is reporyef as this being ” common practice”.
    2019 Alexandria. Pilot boat sails at distance of our ccew tender of 2 mete at a speed of 10 knots. They asked for sigarettes by shouting and pinpointig a bid label Marlboro. They can say sigarettes 60 times per minute! I refosed to undetstand and pinpointed to the VHF. They came closer, I took the arm of the pilot and the crew tender dailrd off. I pushed the pilot back and fell on deck of the pilot boat.

  7. It is without doubt and easy to demonstrate with VDR records that SUEZ mafia is the most stressful for BTM.
    on another side in Pakistan Karachi was first time I receive email stating 18 bottles of Whisky (Muslim country) and 29 cartons of Marlboro in written while in Nigeria they go straight to provisions among whiskey and cigarettes’.

  8. Nothing can be done some ships are old some are new.old ship or shit posses danger but still running by owners.if this is case than nobody can

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