Shipowners have almost unlimited freedom to choose the way in which they operate their vessels – and this includes a free choice of the flag state they register with. Some shipowners are choosing to register their ships in countries other than the one in which the ship is owned, which may have a more relaxed operational requirement or lower standards of inspection and regulation. This allows shipping companies to operate with lower costs and poorer terms and conditions for their seafarers, including low pay.
Countries which operate these types of register have been designated as flags of convenience (FoC) by the ITF.
Nautilus and the ITF believe there should be a genuine link between the real owner of a vessel and the flag the vessel flies, and therefore flags of convenience should not be an option.
FoC registers often have poor safety and training standards, and place no restriction on the nationality of the crew. When seafarers onboard have no common language or a poor level of English – the designated language of the sea – there will often be communication issues which can lead to incidents and accidents.
When vessels are not operated in safe and efficient manner, all ships, and ultimately the lives of those onboard, are put at risk. Therefore, Nautilus believes it is in the interests of its members, and seafarers globally, to ensure standards of safety at sea are high.
Nautilus strongly backs the ITF line on flags of convenience, and provides support to the ITF wherever necessary. The ITF continues to inspect ships on FOC registers to ensure that the seafarers onboard have terms and conditions in line with requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention. They recover over US$30m in back wages and compensation for seafarers each year.