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Iran crisis sheds light on murky shipping rules



The current crisis in the Strait of Hormuz has put a spotlight on the murky world of international shipping, where shipowners can register and re-register their vessels within minutes, turning their crews into pawns in a game of diplomatic chess. [19659002] "If you've got a credit card, and you've got 15 minutes, you can re-register for any flag you want," said Michael Roe, a professor of maritime and logistics policy at the University of Plymouth.

Under marine laws, every merchant has to be registered with one country. While the United Nations Convention on the High Seas says it would have "a genuine" link with its flag state. This is a "flag of convenience."

That roughly 40% of the global fleet is registered in Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands ̵

1; three countries that together own just 169 ships – shows how common practice is.

"Without being too insulting, these "Roe said."

 The crew of the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero got caught in the middle of a diplomatic spat ,

Registration are mostly driven by commercial reasons.

"One way to reduce costs is to choose a flag like Mongolia," Roe said. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, "It's Got No Coast, No Ports, No Real Direct Relevance to Shipping, It Offers a Flag that's Cheap and Low Standards."

vessels with a total cargo capacity of 664 million tons are sailing under the Mongolian flag.

It works the other way too. Greece, a shipping superpower that owns the largest fleet in the world, is sailing its flag underwater, because shipowners want to avoid Greece's high tax rates.

 & # 39; Alter your course, & # 39; Iranians warned before seizing UK-flagged ship

Having a large flag is prestigious, but also lucrative, which is why countries compete fiercely for ships to register with them.

"It's quite common for shipping companies to shop around for a flag which suits them," said Richard Coles, senior research fellow at the Institute of Maritime Law at the University of Southampton.

Coles, a long-time shipping lawyer, said the term "flag of convenience" is a bit of a derogatory in the shipping industry, because of international conventions, every ship has to comply with common safety and environmental standards.

"Now here is the rub, "Coles said. Caribbean Island, which is a flagship vessel or an American flagged state, which are flag states that rigorously enforce their safety rules. the standards are not likely to be good, "he said.

But the flag decision can have a huge impact on crews. Stena Impero, the Swedish-owned tanker that was seized in Iran last week, which was almost certainly targeted because of flying the British flag.

Iran captured the vessel as a tit-for-tat after its own tanker was detained in Gibraltar because it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.
The crew aboard Stena Impero comes from India, the Philippines , Russia and Latvia, countries that are mostly not involved in the current late Iranians and the West.

India, Russia and the Philippines are among the top five countries with the highest numbers of seafarers.

 Decaying tanker near Yemeni coast threatens 'catastrophic explosion'

[19659002] David Heindel, the head of the International Transportation Workers' Federation (ITWF), said the risk crews are facing the Strait of Hormuz is "totally unacceptable."

The ITWF has been campaigning against flags of convenience

"On-State Seafarers simply do not have the same rights that national seafarers would have if they were employed," he said. [19659003] When a ship registers with a country, it becomes nationality and becomes governed by that state's laws. In return, the country is theoretically responsible for the vessel and its crew regardless of their nationalities.

But heel said seafarers sometimes find it difficult to get help from their vessel's flag state. That is especially true when the flag belongs to a developing country with little diplomatic power and no real laboratory protections.

At the same time, Heindel said, the diplomatic missions of the seafarers' own countries may not be able to help either.

To make the matter even more complicated, they are allowed to switch flags and re-register as they please, even mid-journey. [19659012] Iran releases footage of captured tanker's crew ” src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722165643-01-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-crew-grab-small-169.jpg” src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722165643-01-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-crew-grab-medium-plus-169.jpg” src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722165643-01-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-crew-grab-large-169.jpg” src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722165643-01-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-crew-grab-exlarge-169.jpg” src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722165643-01-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-crew-grab-super-169.jpg” src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722165643-01-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-crew-grab-full-169.jpg” src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722165643-01-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-crew-grab-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″/>

In a conflict situation, security becomes a concern and re-flagging could provide respite.

"For example, during the first Gulf War, quite a few [Kuwaiti] vessels were re-flagged under the UK flag and some were re-flagged under the United States flag in order to gain protection of the those countries," Coles said.

Insurance can play a role too. Lloyd's List, the last week of which the British flag has been issued, has been sold to the United States. [19659006] The British-flagged tanker Stena Impero and its 23 crew members were seized by Iran. ” src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722154745-03-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-0721-small-169.jpg” src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722154745-03-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-0721-medium-plus-169.jpg” src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722154745-03-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-0721-large-169.jpg” src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722154745-03-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-0721-exlarge-169.jpg” src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722154745-03-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-0721-super-169.jpg” src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722154745-03-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-0721-full-169.jpg” src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190722154745-03-iran-uk-tanker-stena-impero-0721-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″/>

Erik.

According to the spokesperson of Stena Bulk, Stena Bulk, Stena Impero's owner, the British and Swedish governments are the diplomatic efforts to get the ship and the crew released, keeping the Russian, Latvian, Philippine and Indian embassies informed.

Erik Hanell, Stena Bulk's CEO, said he did not speculate on the ship's flag.

Stena Bulk is Swedish-owned, the company operates "all over the globe" and has "a big presence in Britain."

"There are many reasons why you have another flag," he added.


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