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Unions oppose the establishment of US Virgin Islands flag

3 February 2022

A coalition of American labour organisations, including Nautilus Federation affiliates, have released a statement opposing the establishment of a flag of convenience open registry shipping regime in the US Virgin Islands.

The Unions – including affiliates the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) and Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association – have written a statement on the behalf of American merchant mariners opposing 'in the strongest possible terms the creation of an open registry in the Virgin Islands.'

Open registries allow shipowners to increase their profits by avoiding the same rules, regulations, tax obligations and manning requirements that are attached to a national flag fleet.

The statement says: 'This latest effort is nothing more than an exercise in labor arbitrage designed to generate registry fees and to enrich foreign shipowners at the expense of American workers and America's national interests.

'At its core, this proposal, allowing for the operation of vessels with foreign mariners under a United States open registry, is an affront to the American mariners who have always put themselves in harm's way whenever called upon by our nation.

'Finally, if the supply chain crisis has taught us anything it is that we, as a country, must begin to reverse the dangerous reliance we have on foreign sources for goods and for shipping services. Increasing America's dependence on foreign owned and foreign manned vessels will exacerbate the current situation and will not somehow magically enhance America's maritime posture.'

The organisations call upon the [US] Department of Defense, the Maritime Administration, the Biden Administration and Congress to 'reject any suggestion that the United States Virgin Islands-flag vessels be treated as if they are US-flag and US-crewed vessels for any purpose or any programme.'

Other signatories include Sailors' Union of the Pacific, American Maritime Officers, Marine Firemen's Union, Seafarers International Union, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO and Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO.