The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has announced it will begin work on official guidance to combat maritime corruption.
More than 28,000 individual incidents of corruption – predominantly bribery and “facilitation payments”, where shipping operators pay onshore officials to accelerate or circumvent administrative processes – have been reported through the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network’s (MACN) anonymous reporting system since its inception in 2011. Cecilia Müller Torbrand, Director of MACN, said: “It is important for the industry to have maritime corruption recognized as a problem by the IMO in its role as the international regulator for shipping. Issues such as the wide discretionary powers held by some port officials have the potential to impact all ship owners, managers, and operators. The requirements for port entry too often lack transparency, are deliberately misapplied, or widely interpreted for private gain.”
The IMO has agreed to include the formation of a maritime anti-corruption agenda in the work programme for its Facilitation Committee in response to requests from Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Norway, the UK, the USA and Vanuatu; with support from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). ICS Secretary General Guy Platten said: “Corruption erodes trust in government and undermines the social contract. Corruption impedes investment, with consequent effects on growth and jobs. This is a global issue, but we all need to work to eradicate corrupt practices. We are pleased that the IMO will be working to address this important issue and we will support the member states in stamping out this scourge.”
Anne H. Steffensen, Director General and CEO at Danish Shipping, said: “We have a long-standing commitment to stamping out maritime corruption. Thanks to the targeted efforts of MACN, we have seen tangible change in locations such as the Suez Canal, where facilitation payments have decreased considerably. With the IMO’s 174 member states working together on this agenda, we will stand even stronger in the fight against maritime corruption. Putting maritime anti-corruption on the IMO agenda marks a significant milestone for the maritime community as a whole.”
The proposed maritime anti-corruption agenda is expected to draw on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which came into force in 2005 and has been adopted by 186 countries. The UNCAC is currently the world’s only legally binding instrument combatting corruption.