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Combatting crime and corruption in many of the world’s ports

11 Hydref 2016

Researchers who carried out the four-year project examining the relationship between sea-staff and shore-side staff discovered that seafarers are under considerable pressure to provide ‘facilitation gifts’ to port personnel – with threats of vessel detention, delays, blacklisting and even imprisonment for failure to pay up.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Helen Sampson said: “Relationships between seafarers and shore-based staff are vital to the smooth and safe operations of cargo vessels. However, such interactions are often far from straightforward in the context of, time pressures, noise levels, stress and bureaucracy. As well as suggesting ways of improving communication between sea-staff and their shore based office counterparts our report sets out detailed recommendations to combat the endemic problems of crime and corruption in many of the world’s ports, including a global ban on facilitation payments and a code of conduct for port officials.”

Findings from the study suggest that:

  • 90% of seafarers have served on ships which have made facilitation gifts such as cigarettes and alcohol and almost 60% think this practice is on the increase
  • 13% have experienced the practice in EU ports, against 59% in the Suez Canal, 55% in east Asia and 49% in west Africa
  • Almost 75% report experience of provisions being taken from their ships by port personnel, resulting in some cases in which crews had been left short of food and other supplies
  • More than 66% had been on ships where demands for cash had been made by port officials
  • Serious levels of fraud related to bunker deliveries were discovered – 87% of engineers reported being on ships where less fuel had been supplied than declared by the supplier and 85% experienced deliveries of poor quality fuel.
  • Just over 20% of seafarers said they had experienced dealings with drunk port officials at some stage in their career.

The relationships between seafarers and shore-side personnel: An outline report based on research undertaken in the period 2012-2016 is written by Professor Helen Sampson, Dr Iris Acejo, Neil Ellis, Dr Lijun Tang, and Dr Nelson Turgo. It is available as a free download from the Seafarers International Research Centre website.

Professor Sampson explained that "In large part the effective operation of a modern vessel is determined by the quality of the relationships between shore side personnel and sea staff. This report, which considers the interactions between both sides, is based upon unparalleled original empirical research.

"Our investigation has allowed us to identify the foundations of poor ship-shore relationships, where these exist, and ways of improving them. We’re hoping to contribute to improving safety at sea by shedding light on where poor ship-shore relationships exist, what may contribute to these, and how such relationships might be improved in the future."

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