Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Irish government's Flag of Convenience charter

It is regrettable that the Irish Defence Forces have chartered a Flag of Convenience country registered cargo ship to carry its supplies to Chad where the Irish Army is currently taking part in a European Union mission. This morning mv Zeran (pictured right) is being loaded at Dublin's north quays with weapons, military equipment, food and supplies for the 70 or so Irish troops in Chad. The Zeran is owned by the Polish company Pol-Levant but is registered in Malta, a flag of convenience country (see http://theoldblogcabin.blogspot.com/2007/04/flags-of-convenience-danger-for-sailors.html for previous Old Blog Cabin article on Flags of Convenience).

Flags of Convenience ships are ones which fly a flag other than that of the country where the ships owners are based. A FOC country generally charges less for ships registration but also is inclined to operate lower standards in areas of regulation, safety, pay and conditions for seafarers and make it cheaper for the ships owners to run their fleet while of course it is the sailors and seafarers who suffer. FOC ships often have an undesirable safety and environmental record as less rigorous application of international standards is generally applied.

There was a time of course when Ireland had its own fleet through the Irish Shipping Company but then successive Irish governments have had a poor record on maritime issues.

It is regrettable that the the Irish government could not have chartered a ship from a non FOC country. It should be noted that as recently as January 17th 2008 the Irish transport Minister Noel Dempsey met with a representative of the International Transport Federation to discuss this very matter and the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern decried the practice of using Flags of Convenience in the Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann) as recently as 5th March 2008.

It seems to be a case of saying one thing and doing another.

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