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Ms. Rose George
 This week NAUTICAL LOG was directed by a post in OLD SALT BLOG one of our favourite and 'read-daily' maritime blogs to a 'The New York Times' opinion by a writer Rose George from Leeds, England.  Now 'The New York Times' has a reputation in recent times of first forming an opinion, usually well to the left of centre, and then having a writer put together an 'opinion' from what could be biased and or least quite selective research.  This may be why this British writer was chosen for this particular article.  One should perhaps note that Ms. George has written and had published a book on the subject of sewage - "The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters"  - a truly Victorian style  title.  With this as background she is now apparently writing one about the Maritime Shipping Industry and one hopes that her research considerably improves in both quality and accuracy.  From the 'opinion' piece published by 'The New York Times' while not all poor research it really needs that improvement.  She has many grievances about our Industry and largely blames all these on so called 'Flags of Convenience' (FOC).  Many of the problems she quotes are those that have been associated with seafarers since the first traders around the Mediterranean and other parts of the world.  They can be found in vessels under national registry and FOC registry just as easily.

Here NAUTICAL LOG draws on the experience of 50 years of professional seafaring from 1953 to 2003 of which some 30 years were spent sailing in FOC vessels, namely Panama, Liberia, Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Netherlands Antilles.  The vessels included both general cargo ships, bulk carriers, tankers, container ships and passenger vessels.  While no seafarer is ever really content with everything on board a ship one can honestly say that there was no real difference between the national and flags of convenience flag state vessels.   However there were three vessels that NAUTICAL LOG refused to join when we saw their condition and a couple more which we left at the first port available - this is always an option.  Seafarers are second-rate citizens, one has to look after oneself and cover ones 'asterisk' - that's just the way it is.

As to considering that National Registers are superior to FOC Registers the International Registers of European Nations spring immediately to mind namely Norway NIS, Germany GIS, and Denmark DIS which are really FOC Registers hiding under their National flag.  Perhaps this is the most disreputable method of all with lower pay, non-national crews and absolute minimum safety and maintenance conditions yet looking like the national flag state vessels.  For further research NAUTICAL LOG would direct you to 'Wikipedia' for articles of how and why these came into being in the 1980's.  There is also the practice of transferring the Flag State without inspections between the European Union nations. This is used to hid inspection failures and delay a Port State detaining a vessel all too often with unpaid multi-national crewmembers from who-knows-where-country.  Refer to the International Transport Workers Federation website which does more than just talk like the International Maritime Organization (IMO).  The IMO elects a new fearless leader for it's paper empire later this year so one hopes for an effective IMO in the future but we are not holding our breath on that issue.

There are some 30 to 35 Ship Registers that are considered FOC Registers of these there are 13 that as of 2009 were listed as having Non-ratification of International Conventions Status they are:

Bahamas  x MARPOL
Bolivia  x SOLAS
North Korea
Honduras x SOLAS
Lebanon x SOLAS
St. Vincent/Grenadines

NAUTICAL LOG would like to point out that The Commonwealth of the Bahamas has numerous passenger cruise ships registered yet apparently has not ratified MARPOL a requirement for passenger vessels to sail in and out of U.S. Ports.  Bahamas registered vessels call at United States Ports regularly and yet the Port State Control which is a mission of the USCG does not detain these vessels - why not?  Political economics once again at work.

Good Watch.

Please remember the seafarers held captive by pirates off Somalia - let us work with India and others to free them.


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