What actions can you take to prevent corrupt practices?

In his concluding Splash special on corruption, Nick Fisher, the CEO of Singapore’s Masterbulk, looks at solutions. Part one can be found here.

There are two approaches – internally and externally. Externally by:

• Clearly stating to business partners with that the company will not participate in any form of bribery or corruption, and include this in all contracts with customers and suppliers;
• Having the policy on display and on hand for the other party to see and having a publicised reporting system;
• Politely refusing to acquiesce and reinforcing the Master’s position by supporting him directly from the Head Office;
• Being consistent, maintaining the policy, and being firm; and
• Being prepared to accept the consequences of upholding the law.

Internally by:

• Having clearly documented policies and procedures, broadcast and endorsed and upheld from the Boardroom and down throughout the organisation, including whistle blowing instructions, and communication channels;
• Routinely (re-)educating shore staff and crew to ensure everyone in the company fully understands the policies, and the consequences;
• Being there to help and shoulder the confrontation by providing management support directly to those on the front line having to deal with demands on a regular basis; and
• Communication, communication, communication, and when we have done that, communicate some more.

It is easy to say ‘we don’t pay’ – but having a vessel delayed can be a costly exercise. Having a strategy when encountering delays is part and parcel of standing up to corrupt practices. This is basic risk management, and should be addressed like any other risk. Identify, mitigate, transfer, choose to accept it or not and, if cannot be avoided, have a ‘pain threshold’ the company is prepared to accept.

Confronting and solving the issue of corruption

MACN is leading the ‘fight’ through lobbying and collective action. BIMCO has published a clause to include in charter parties that addresses owners’ and charterers’ responsibility to comply with anti-corruption legislation and helps them to work together to resist demands for illegal payments. For this, and similar efforts, to start to take effect participation by more owners and charterers is required.

There is dissension on the BIMCO clause where some believe this creates a commercial disadvantage by adopting the clause, and while much of the industry is suffering disastrous market, few are willing to take a stand where they may suffer financially. To combat corruption there have to be more of us willing to participate in these anti-corruption initiatives, including owners and charterers Agents in ‘problem’ ports, and in future actions that will come.

Highlighting anti-corruption efforts on board and through social media – does this make any difference?

Some shipowners and managers take an ‘old-school’ approach to getting their messages across…onboard posters, training/presentations, or maybe a handout would traditionally be used to raise awareness of an issue…or many issues (how many posters are on ships?!) . All of these are easily ignored, but still form an important part of creating a zero-tolerance environment.

Like it or not, social media is a part of modern life. Everyone uses it – seafarers, office staff, stevedores, CEOs – it is an effective tool to communicate and influence an audience. As a company, we are regularly highlighting a zero-tolerance approach, our crews will look at their Facebook page and see that again, and again, we will support their ability to say no.

Interestingly, we have posted regular social media posts of our crew putting up anti-corruption posters. So far we have only received a small amount of negative feedback, typically: ‘it’ll never work’ or ‘this is just for show’. But contrary to these views, we have been asked on numerous occasions by other shipowners if they can have a copy of our anti-corruption poster, which we have shared willingly.

Will we be able to change the world overnight with posters and social media? No. But we might be able to help achieve a collective shift in culture and attitude.

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