As shipping faces more regulation and there are wider demands for commercial transparency, we can no longer afford to turn the other cheek and accept corruption as a cost of doing business, notes Leon van Duivendijk, Director Shared Resources, Vroon B.V. who explains how the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) has become a global leader in the private sector fight against corruption.
SAFETY4SEA: In a nutshell, what does the word ‘sustainability’ mean to you?
Leon van Duivendijk: The term “sustainability” has become synonymous with environmental impact and the shipping community’s efforts to reduce its resulting footprint. But from an operational point of view, sustainability has a far deeper meaning. Can we profitably sustain operations and routes? Can we source and keep quality crew? Are we able to successfully implement required regulatory requirements? Are our crew and vessels safe? Are we permitted to call certain countries and deal with certain counterparties? All these questions need to be answered for us to run a sustainable operation.
For those of us who have sailed, or who now manage seafarers, the fight against corruption in ports is an issue of sustainability. Our masters and crews shouldn’t have to put up with harassment, threats, and danger. Corrupt demands put our people and business at risk, increasing the cost of doing business and damaging the local economies of the countries we trade into.
Sustainability has become synonymous with environmental impact; but from an operational point of view, the term has a far deeper meaning.
S4S: How would you assess the current status of shipping with respect to sustainability?
L.V.D.: I think shipping’s response has been outstanding—world-leading. Through MACN, the industry has become a global leader in the private sector fight against corruption. MACN has given member companies the tools and training for crew and onshore staff to refuse corrupt demands. Through industry cooperation we have implemented collective actions so that our people are not alone when they refuse payment.
S4S: In your view, what would be the biggest shipping challenge in the years to come with respect to sustainable shipping?
L.V.D.: The biggest challenge is changing the cultural perception over corruption. For the industry, this requires quantifying the problem in certain ports, and getting local, national, and international authorities to understand the need for action. As companies we also must continue to educate our crews on the process of dealing with corrupt port officials and turning down these demands. Crew education will require an ongoing effort, as refusing a demand for payment is not, and likely never will be, part of typical seafarer training.
The biggest challenge is changing the cultural perception over corruption.
S4S: Which are the key drivers and barriers towards sustainable shipping?
L.V.D.: The drivers are quite simple: greater crew safety and operational profitability. Finding good seafarers is already an industry issue, and it is harder if we can’t provide a safe working environment.
The barriers are a little more complicated at both the industry, local, and international levels. We need more shipping companies, both Owners and Charterers, to be involved in MACN and to take part in collective action. The more we act as a group, the greater the protection we offer each other. At the international level, having maritime corruption acknowledged as a major issue would be a great help. Here the IMO has a role to play.
S4S: What is your organization doing differently and/or more effectively in order to prepare for a more sustainable future?
L.V.D.: The tools MACN has provided have helped us implement an anti-bribery and corruption program; this covers compliance training and crew/vessel support procedures. But the key here is that, again, we are not alone in this process. Other members are happy to share operational and training best practice, and their vessels are also involved in taking collective action in various ports. Internally this has meant we are doing things differently but, in the wider context, our MACN partners are doing the same thing.
S4S: Is there anything you would like to see other industry’s stakeholders to do differently or better?
L.V.D.: Moving forward, it is vital that the fight against maritime sector corruption is recognized not just as a ‘shipping problem’, impacting only a few, but as an international barrier to fair trade and a safe working environment. Governments have a key role to play in developing a lasting solution. But the role of Shippers and Charterers in the fight against corruption should not be underestimated, and by teaming up with the Ship Owners they can make a significant difference.
S4S: What do you see as the defining sustainability trends driving industry toward 2050?
L.V.D.: When we look back, the work MACN members are doing now will be held up as the leading example of private sector action in the fight against corruption. We may be part of trends such as greater commercial transparency, creating a safer workplace for our seafarers, and promoting fair trade and business practices. However, most members have joined MACN because corruption is simply wrong, and we want to take a stand against it.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
About Leon van Duivendijk
Leon van Duivendijk has been Director Shared Resources at Vroon B.V. since November 2018. He began as a third Officer at the company back in 2003 and is also a former Head Operations at Vroon B.V. He has also been an Operations Manager at Iver Ships B.V.