Liberia: Time for Openness on Ship Registries
THE Liberian Registry says it is time to put an end to the outdated thinking which results in all open registers, irrespective of their safety record, being referred to pejoratively as ‘flags of convenience.’
Scott Bergeron, CEO of the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (ISCR), the US-based manager of the Liberian Registry, says, “Liberia is one of thirteen flags which have just been given a clean bill of health by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in its flag state performance table. This means it has earned positive indicators from the ICS with regard to its performance in relation to port state control, convention ratification, recognised organisations, age of vessel, IMO attendance, and completion of STCW and ILO reports.
“The ICS itself says, ‘There is nothing inherently unusual in an international ship registry system in which the owner of a ship may be located in a country other than the state whose flag the ship flies.” It also points out, quite rightly, that ‘a balance has to be struck between the commercial advantages of selecting a particular flag and the need to discourage the use of flags that do not meet their international obligations.’
“Liberia fully agrees with this, and endorses the ICS performance table as an effective way to encourage shipowners and operators to examine whether a flag state has sufficient substance, and to put pressure on flag administrations to effect any necessary improvements, especially in relation to safety of life at sea, protection of the environment, and the provision of decent working and living conditions for seafarers.
“There is no longer any need in shipping for the term ‘flag of convenience’. It has purely negative connotations, which is especially perverse in light of the positive indicators accorded to Liberia and to certain other open registries by the ICS. It would be more meaningful to refer instead - as does the ICS - to open registers, in order to distinguish them from national registers, many of which perform well below the level of the best open registries and yet enjoy an undeserved reputation for excellence. It would be more meaningful still – and more accurate – to refer simply to ship registries, and to judge those registries on how they rate under independent performance monitoring guidelines, such as those produced by the ICS.
“The monitoring and policing of ship safety on an international basis is now tighter than ever before, and the book on registering ships under the flags of their domiciled owners has long been rewritten. It is time the language of the industry was changed to reflect this.”
The Liberian Registry is one of the world’s largest and most active shipping registers, with a long-established track record of combining the highest standards of safety for vessels and crews with the highest levels of responsive service to owners. It has recently surpassed all-time tonnage records, with a registered fleet of approximately 4,000 ships, aggregating more than 131m gross tons.