September 23, 2002
Open registry manager calls for substandard flag "blockade"
Ships registered in chronically substandard flag states should be banned from entering ports, said a speaker at last week's Mare Forum conference on Flag State Quality and Regulatory Governance in Athens, Greece.
"A virtual blockade of these so-called registers is the most effective way of imposing real commercial pain not just on the worst flag states and owners, but on the operators, charterers, underwriters, banks and class societies who sustain pariah ships by doing business with them," Clay Maitland, a managing partner of International Registries, Inc. (IRI) told delegates. IRI manages the Marshall Islands ship registry, often seen as a U.S. "second registry,"
"There is a tendency for port states to react only after an Erika or an Exxon Valdez," said Maitland, adding: "There will be more such losses in the months to come. Why not, for a change, act now?"
"Port state control agencies must do more than just 'target' substandard flags," he said. "They must cast aside outdated solicitude for national sovereignty and join in suppressing them by banning their ships from their ports. Most port states have laws on their books that make this possible."
Maitland said that IRI, which runs the Marshall Islands register, applauded the accomplishments of the port state regimes so far, and particularly the Paris MOU. The publishing of inspection and detention results naming flag states, owners and class societies was a good start, along with further advances such as the U.S. Coast Guard's target list of flag states, and the black, gray and white list of the Paris MOU.
"Now," noted Maitland," the Paris MOU is considering publishing the names of charterers of defaulting ships, and I hope they will do so. But it is not enough. All the 'enablers' who keep the substandard registers in business must be publicly identified. It is a long-overdue step towards legal liability, which up to now has been borne almost exclusively by the shipowner".
Maitland suggested 17 elements of a model register, and said that it cost quality registers a lot of money to maintain the regime and expert staff needed to implement them. "Unfortunately, the prevailing pressure in the market place is against such quality-conscious administrations. Low standards are eminently saleable. Competition is all-too-often manifested not by quality, service and professionalism, but by bargain-basement prices in disregard of acceptable operational standards".
Competition without accountability penalizes the high-quality administrations, said Maitland. "The competition we have got is not the competition we want. It perpetuates 'shadow' registers which are no more than a one-room office that run weekly advertisements in noted maritime publications, and sign up leading class societies as recognised organizations."