Home Page Mare Forum
conf. registration
hotel registration
chairman's summary

Flag State Quality and Regulatory Governance: 
Time for Action. 
Designing a Model Flag State

A Dialogue between Shipowners and Flag State Regulators
19 & 20 September
Divani Apollon Palace Hotel
Athens - Greece


In the search for shipping quality, the ability of flag states and the competence of maritime administrations have been increasingly called into question. The wide gulf between the best run ship registers, and those which have limited capabilities, has been increasingly identified as a prime reason for the continued existence of sub-standard ships, and the difficulty of eradicating this blot on the maritime landscape.

Regrettably, the continued ability of the worst performing registers, to attract marginal tonnage has perpetuated a regime which has reflected badly on the whole maritime industry, and led to the "defense mechanism" of port state control being implemented by regulators concerned about the quality of foreign ships in their ports and waters. 

Thus, the perceived inadequacies of the "first line" of flag state has directly led to a whole range of other measures designed to identify and deal with poor quality shipping. And because regulation finds it difficult to discriminate, all ship operators have had to deal with this increased level of supervision.

Dealing with the differences in flag state quality has proved difficult, and often unsatisfactory. Issues of sovereignty have come to the fore, and diplomatic sensitivities have often precluded states from taking advantage of useful technical assistance schemes available through the International Maritime Organisation. The IMO itself has tried hard to persuade its members that the effectiveness of regulation depends entirely on their enthusiasm for implementation.

Meanwhile the search for better flag state performance seems often to have been deflected by side issues about the morality of open registers (the flag of convenience question) and quality of a flag confused by the local legal and financial regime, rather than the technical ability of the administration. Additionally the increasingly mobile situation by which flag states delegate their supervisory powers to others, such as classification societies has been questioned, and often identified as a source of weakness of control.

The series of High Level Mare Forum Quality conferences has clearly identified the flag state as one of the major  keys to a whole range of ship quality and marine safety problems. A quality flag state, it has been suggested, will "automatically" attract quality tonnage; it will police diligently the shipping which flies its flag and ensure that the standards of the seafarers and shore side managers are fully convention-compliant. But conversely, the link between poor performing flags and substandard shipping has equally been shown as incontrovertible.

A whole range of questions are suggested.  What can be done to encourage better performance from marine administrations? How can the qualities of these bodies be gauged and properly audited? What better mechanisms can be determined to enable poor performing flag states to raise their standards? Must the stick always take precedence over the carrot and is it possible to devise real incentives that will enable good registers to flourish? What are the roles of IMO, regional bodies, leading flags themselves and classification societies in this quest for better quality ship registers.

Flag state quality, it is suggested, is a form of "regulatory governance" and it is to probe deeper into these matters that the next High Level Mare Forum will focus upon this important issue.

Like all Mare Forum conferences, the ultimate goal of the conference  is to provide a true forum where all participants are invited to take part in the discussion periods after every panel of high profile speakers has spoken directly to the issues.

We are looking forward to welcoming you to Athens, to the  
Time for Action, Designing a Model Flag State
conference, and wish you success during the conference.

Michael Grey
Conference Chairman

Jannis Kostoulas
Managing Director Mare Forum





Touw B&B Holding BV


As Mare Forum 2002 coincides with the 20th Anniversary of HELMEPA, the Association commends its member 
Mare Forum for its continuous initiatives for the safety and environmental awareness of the human element in world shipping.