Isles of Man

The latest response to this inequality of costs has been the emergence of ‘off-shore’ flags which purport to be more respectable than full-blown flags of convenience. While many of the safety regulations of the original country are retained, strict rules about the nationality of crew members are relaxed and national agreements regarding wage levels and the payment of social security contributions are circum­vented. This has resulted, for example, in well-known and respected British shipowners forsaking traditional ports of registry such as London, Newcastle and Liverpool, but retaining a form of the Red Ensign by transferring their registry to such places as the Isles of Man. This is a dependency of Britain but still retains sufficient elements of its own sovereignty for it not to be subject to the UK’s Merchant Shipping agreement. This sort of situation has its parallels in many parts of the world and an industry which has burgeoned as a result has been that of crewing agencies.  These companies are set up to specialise in that one aspect of ship management and whose contract with shipowners undertakes to maintain a suitable crew on board at all times.  It is not even unusual for ship managers themselves to sub-contract their crewing to one of these agencies. The main advantage they provide is that the shipowner or manager could be based in, say, the UK itself but not being the employers of the crew they are not bound by the UK’s employment laws.  In addition, of course these agencies are able to offer the economy of scale as many of them are crewing far more ships than any one owner. It has to be said that although many more crewing agencies have emerged as a result of the spate of ‘flagging-out’ in recent times, they are by no means a novelty because many British ships in the first half of the 20th century employed ‘lascar’ crews.  These were provided by agencies who supplied men from the eastern part of the Indian sub-continent and this was such a well established practice that successive agreements and legislation for UK merchant ships have continued to accom­modate this source of inexpensive labour.