Greek

The original motive of shipowners to seek registry under flags of other nations was to avoid heavy taxes imposed under their home country’s laws (for example the United States and Greek shipowners in particular) or other stringent regulations aimed at shipowners.  The system has grown immensely in popularity since World War II when the unsubsidised fleets of the nations of the western world found it hard to trade competitively in world markets against state owned or controlled fleets of the Soviet bloc. The costs of crewing, always a major expense for owners, could exceed the financial powers of an average shipowner if he were forced, by the domestic law of his own country of residence, to crew his ship exclusively with seafarers of his own nationality. Some countries still insist on this high degree of nationalism. Britain takes a ‘middle of the road’ view and does not insist on tying British nationals to flying the British flag.  The ‘totally relaxed’ countries which offer their registries without ‘strings’ to shipowner nationals of any other nation are, to mention a few, Panama, Liberia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Somalia. The system will continue as long as international law recognises the right of each sovereign state to determine, free of outside influence, on what terms and conditions it will grant its nationality/flag to foreign owned merchant ships.