The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has added seven more countries to its list of Flags of Convenience (FOCs) after they failed to honour the responsibilities that go with being a flag state.
Ships are typically registered in countries that the ITF considers to be FOCs in order to reduce tax obligations, employ cheap labour or skirt safety standards. The shipowner usually has no genuine link to the country.
Four of the countries added to the list – Cook Islands, Palau, St Kitts & Nevis and Togo – are signatories to the Maritime Labour Convention. The other three countries are Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Tanzania (Zanzibar).
'What flags of convenience countries do is morally irresponsible,' said David Heindel, chair of the ITF Seafarers' Section. 'They all take the registration fees but do not have the will or the means to ensure the wellbeing of the seafarers who operate the vessels. The crew change crisis is the perfect example of the havoc the FOC system creates. When becoming a flag state, a large responsibility must be accepted along with it. Ticking the boxes is not being responsible. Too many seafarers end up suffering so that ship owners can trim a few dollars from their crew cost.'
'For more than 70 years the ITF has fought against this crazy system,' added Steve Trowsdale, the IT inspectorate coordinator. 'Many flags of convenience countries (including four of the newly listed) ratify the Maritime Labour Convention which is designed to protect seafarers. But in practice, those countries simply ignore the MLC, even when we write to them demanding action.'
The FOC system has been blamed by the ITF for exacerbating the crew change crisis, as FOC countries fail to support seafarers in need of repatriation, as well as worsening the recent spate of crew abandonment.
- view the full ITF FOC list