London

Both pros and cons in relation to the FOC system and it should be noted that one real truth about flags of convenience is that the mere fact that a ship flies a convenience flag does not make it ‘per se’ (ie of itself) a ‘suspect’ sub-standard ship, as the ITF would allege.  Indeed, the ITF are prone to describing most FOC ships as being ‘coffin’ ships, saying, in other words, that they are likely to be or are involved in many more fatal accidents than non FOC vessels. It is interesting to note that at a conference in London in 1987, there was a tendency for speakers to encourage shipowners to flag out from high cost flags to the cheaper and, in most cases, more flexible registries.  One or two of the speakers representing particular countries were concerned with actively promoting the registries in which they had an interest. Unsurprisingly, the exception to this encouragement for FOC registries was the paper delivered by Mr. Ake Selander, Assistant General Secretary of the ITF, which remained committed to the destruction of flags of convenience.  The opening paper which was given by the Director of the International Shipping Federation, gave an overview of the current Open Registry situation and gave FOCs full support, emphasising that Open Registries are not synonymous with sub-standard ships.  It was pointed out that the Paris Memorandum of Understanding and the United Nations Convention on Conditions for Registration of Ships were designed to deal with such problems. Whatever may be the arguments for and against the use of open registries and the allegations of immorality lodged against shipowners for flying flags which depend upon no link or real national ownership, flags of convenience are clearly here to stay so long as competition remains so intense.