Pushing the agenda of maritime corruption awareness education and training

The World Maritime University (WMU) recently delivered its landmark Maritime Business Integrity and Corruption Awareness (CORA) Seminar for the sixth consecutive year. This year’s seminar took place on 15 October and included two International Maritime Organization (IMO) Member State delegates as speakers - H.E. Ambassador Laurent Parenté, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Vanuatu to IMO, Chair of the IMO’s Technical Cooperation Committee and Governor of WMU, and Mr. Cristiano Aliperta, Alternate Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau to IMO, Palau International Ship Registry.

In his Address to the Seminar, H.E. Ambassador Parenté stated, “I am truly delighted to take part in this important Seminar and I laud the World Maritime University on its track-record for tackling corruption, a difficult but pressing challenge that affects the sustenance of the world and maritime trade.” He added, “As an active IMO Member State, Vanuatu has a vested interest in working towards establishing a tighter maritime governance framework at the global level to address this scourge.” H.E. Ambassador Parenté cited first-hand examples of ships being illegally detained and operators giving in under duress to the payment of bribes or facilitation payments. At the conclusion of the successful Seminar, Ambassador Parenté hoped that a larger proportion of IMO delegates and officials would take part in WMU’s programmes.

Co-lecturing at the CORA Seminar from the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), Mrs. Cecilia Müller Torbrand, Executive Director, and Mr. Vivek Menon, Head of Collective Action and Partnerships (EMEA), shared lessons learned from the industry and discussed relevant solutions needed to combat this issue. MACNs anonymous reporting mechanism demonstrates the scope of the problem with over 40,000 incidents now recorded of corrupt demands made globally. This is clearly a systemic issue which needs to continue to be addressed at the industry level through MACN. 

The Seminar was attended by 106 students from 48 countries in the Masters of Science in Maritime Affairs programme in the Class of 2021. Mr. Stephen Kgadi Rakoma, a student from South Africa in the Shipping Management and Logistics specialization, praised the Seminar for igniting his interest in the subject of maritime corruption. 

WMU President, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, commented on the significance of the seminar stating: ”As we educate the maritime and ocean leaders of today and tomorrow, we must focus on eliminating the scourge of corruption. Corruption affects economic development, impacts economic efficiency and growth, the equitable distribution of resources, increases income inequalities, as well as negatively impacting long-term sustainable development and equality. In accordance with SDG 16 - Promote Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies -  it is fitting that WMU is a frontrunner providing this necessary delivery of this valuable educational component to all our students who on their return home can be equipped to help address this important problem.”

The Seminar came on the heels of a meeting of IMO’s Facilitation Committee, which convened online from 28 September to 2 October. The Committee established a Correspondence Group with the mandate to develop draft Guidance to Address Maritime Corruption.

In a public statement issued on the same day as the Seminar, H.E. Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated: “Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust.” He called on everyone to work together and stamp out the global scourge, in all its forms, adding that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, corruption was proving to be even more damaging in its impact on the most vulnerable.

Earlier this year, WMU joined a prestigious international Maritime Corruption Research consortium with a view to carrying out a scientific investigation of the phenomenon of bribery and facilitation payment demands in ports. Speaking at the Seminar, a member of the consortium, Dr. Lisa Loloma Froholdt, Senior Researcher and Head of the Centre of Maritime Health and Society, University of Southern Denmark—emphasized the importance of addressing maritime corruption as a help to seafarers, who are at the frontline of this issue. “It is crucial that the problem of maritime corruption is studied closely; it should be understood and assessed qualitatively and quantifiably, Dr. Froholdt stated.

The strength of WMU’s seminar is that “it places emphasis on academic and industry collaboration in relation to corruption and the current efforts being deployed at IMO through FAL, thus establishing a triple helix approach to fight corruption in the maritime sector,” added Dr. Froholdt.

Dr. Aref Fakhry, Associate Professor, WMU, led the Seminar. Dr. Fakhry represents WMU at  the Cross-industry Working Group on Tackling Maritime Corruption. He is also a member of the IMO Correspondence Group mandated to develop Guidance to Address Maritime Corruption.

Corruption significantly impacts the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 17 (Partnerships).

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