There was an interesting letter in yesterday's Irish Examiner (5th Sept 2008) from a retired inspector of the International Transport Federation, Mr. Tony Ayton, once again highlighting the scandal of "Flags of Convenience", i.e. ships owned in one country but operating from another where tax, labour and safety regulations are more relaxed. I have highlighted this scandal in previous entries on The Old Blog Cabin.
Mr Ayton in his letter welcomed the fact that seven Irish based shipping companies were investing in new or second hand vessels this year, with the benefit of Irish government concessions. Some 21 such vessels are to be purchased this year with another 27 over the next two years. However the former ITF inspector also expressed his hope, rather than expectectation, that the ships would be registered in this country.
To quote Mr. Ayton: "I fear a lot of them will end up just like many beneficially-owned Irish ships do today operating under the notorious flag of convenience system.
This is a system where shipowners are allowed to register and flag their ships in countries that, in exchange for the registration fees, offer a minimum of laws and regulations that have to be applied and which take little or no interest in how the crews of these ships are treated. Consequently, a large proportion of the jobs that this investment will create could be at exploitative wage rates and miserable working conditions".
In January of this year the Irish government, through Minister Noel Dempsey, met with the International Transport Federation and assured them of the government's determination to do something about Flags of Convenience. Let us hope that they will live up to this promise and ensure that these new ships will comply with the best standards in safety and labour law and pay the proper rate for the job to their crews. Otherwise Mr. Dempsey's assurances will have been nothing more than another bunch of empty promises