The Concept Of Ship Registration

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Introduction

The concept of ship registration dates back to the time when vessels started to sail under national flags. Belonging to different countries, the ‘nationality’ of a ship provides not only protection of the owner’s rights, support and other advantages, but also responsibilities and certain limitations. Registration means subjecting the ship to the jurisdiction of a country.

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However, the ways and approaches to ship registration were not rigid and inflexible. Prior to the 1980s, national registers were the only phenomenon in the ship registration practice. But the so-called ‘open registers’ appeared due to several developing countries, such as Panama, Liberia and the Bahamas. They provided more flexible conditions and lower costs than national registers. Ship owners were attracted by open registers to become more competitive in comparison with their rivals. The response of the developed countries was to introduce international or second registers that gave wider opportunities than national ones, but provided better technical support and service to the member-vessels. The current literature review is aimed at providing the overall classification of ship register types and to concentrate on the four registering companies: NIS, NOR (Norwegian Ship registers), IOM Ship Register (Isle of Man) and UK Ship Register.

Definition, Classification and Functions of Ship Registers

Rayfuse (2004) argues that according to existing international legislation, ships are allowed to sail under the flag of one country only. Consequently, the concept of a ship register or flag state addresses a vessel to the state, which carries out the regulatory control over this ship (Harwood, 2006). However, this registration will imply further certification and inspection of the ship. Special attention is given by ship registers to the maintenance of environmental regulations and the prevention of pollution (Raikes, 2009).

Hinkelman (2005) proposed an overwhelming classification of ship registers types. The researcher argues that all the register types are subdivided into national registers, flags of convenience (FOCs), second registers and bareboat charter registers. In the case of national registers, the direct link between the nationality of the vessel’s owner and the flag state is implied. National registers are often referred to as ‘closed registers’ (Hinkelman, 2005). Flags of convenience (FOCs) do not directly link the nationality of the owner with the state flag. On the contrary, they are foreign registers, which provide more convenient conditions for the ship owners. Bareboat charter registers grant the possibility to obtain for vessels a foreign registration for a certain time period. However, they retain their primary registration (Hinkelman, 2005).

The current dissertation focuses predominantly on second and national registers. Second registers are often referred to as offshore registers. Their operation is determined by the International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF) (Mulcahy and Tillotson, 2004). This type of register is usually established either by the separate legislation in the country,

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