Shipowner associations promote guidelines on flag states
Five international associations of shipowners have published proposed guidelines on the performance of flag states that, they believe, could solve some of the problems of national flag administrations failing to implement rules on safety, the protection of the marine environment, and seafarer employment.
The voluntary industry guidelines are backed by the “round table” of international maritime associations, which comprises the Baltic and International Maritime Council, Intercargo, the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Shipping Federation and Intertanko.
The publication of the guidelines by the shipowners’ bodies coincides with the meeting of the International Maritime Organization assembly, which will be considering progress towards the development of an IMO model audit scheme of flag state performance.
The round table of maritime associations said its guidelines aim to encourage shipowners and operators to examine whether a flag state has “sufficient substance,” before using it, and to also encourage them to put pressure on flag administrations to improve their performance on safety and other aspects.
The shipowners’ associations published a table of flag state performance, which it plans to update periodically. The table highlights negative performance indicators, such as the inclusion of a ship registry in the U.S. Coast Guard “target list” or in the “black list” of various government agencies, poor attendance by flag administration officials at IMO meetings, and the failure of a flag administration to ratify maritime conventions.
“Of course it is the shipping company that has primary responsibility for the safe operation of its ships,” said Chris Horrocks, secretary general of International Chamber of Shipping and International Shipping Federation, speaking on behalf of the round table group. “But the flag state must enforce the rules and there has been understandable concern about the performance of certain flags,” he added.
He said the shipping industry accepts that it has a part to play in promoting an understanding of the role of the flag state.
The guidelines list the responsibilities that a shipping company might reasonably expect of a flag state, including the provision of adequate infrastructure, ratification and implementation of maritime treaties, proper supervision of surveys, and arrangements to ensure that seafarers can be repatriated to their home countries in cases of need.