Food and cargo demanded by corrupt ship inspectors

Seafarers Have Become Victims of Corruption

Seafarers across the globe are facing a disturbing trend of port officials demanding bribes in exchange for allowing ships to pass through. These so-called “gratuities” are not only unethical but also violate international anti-corruption laws. Despite efforts to curb these practices, the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network received a staggering 5,183 reports of such incidents in 2023.

The International Association of Ports and Harbours has recognized the seriousness of this issue and is actively working to combat it. However, the scale of corruption in the maritime industry is alarming.

Former captain Stephen Gudgeon shared a harrowing experience where he was held at gunpoint for refusing to hand over cigarettes at a port in Asia. He described being taken ashore, locked up, and interrogated by officials in a chilling ordeal that left him fearing for his safety.

Eventually, Mr. Gudgeon was released with a hefty fine of $1,500 to pay for alleged paperwork irregularities. He believes this was a vindictive response to his refusal to succumb to bribery demands. Unfortunately, the ports authority in question has not responded to these serious allegations.

The MACN revealed that they have received a staggering 61,000 reports of corruption in over 1,000 ports across 150 countries since establishing an anonymous helpline in 2011. Cecilia Muller Torbrand, the head of the MACN, emphasized that incidents like Mr. Gudgeon’s are rare but indicative of the corruption risks prevalent in the shipping industry.

The unique challenges of the maritime sector, including frequent government interactions and navigating through multiple jurisdictions, contribute to the susceptibility of corruption. The reported incidents are believed to be just the tip of the iceberg, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address and prevent corruption in the maritime industry.

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