Baltic Exchange Ethics

The Baltic Exchange, in London, has always been especially particular about ethical behavior. It is perhaps in a fortunate position because of the examples set in the days of daily, face-to-face contact among those using that market place. It is much more difficult to do a ‘dirty trick’ to a fellow shipbroker when you are likely to meet him and/or his friends the very next day. (Perhaps there is something in the Cockney’s “being found out not complying”). Furthermore, the Baltic’s attitude to ethical behavior enabled its governing board to discipline members for a breach of ethics. It did not have to wait until a law has been broken or a contract breached. The Baltic is one of the few organisations to have produced a written “code” of ethical behavior, which members must adopt in order to be accepted. Naturally enough, the Baltic’s Code concerns itself specifically with shipbroking and concentrates on carefully defined areas of behavior, which are deemed to be unacceptable. To flout any of these “rules” is to risk expulsion and thereby loss of reputation. Whilst the world outside the Baltic Exchange does not have the same ability to exert discipline, the shipping world is fortunately a fairly tight-knit community, and persistent breakers of the unwritten laws eventually become known and find they either have to mend their ways or risk isolation. It is fair to say that self-regulation in ethical behavior throughout shipping business depends as much on the fear of loss of reputation and thus loss of livelihood as on the altruistic observance of business ethics for the good of the profession. The one definition of ethics which has not yet been mentioned is, of course, that which is summed up so succinctly in the motto of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers: “Our Word Our Bond”