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The Modern Flag State

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 The banner at the transom that your vessel flies, is possibly the most important aspect of shipping to all intents and purposes. Theofilos Xenakoudis (pictured)  knowns best; herewith an account for the Modern Flag State, with the International Registries and its full support for the Republic of the Marshall Islands

International Registries, Inc. and its affiliates (IRI) provide administrative and technical support to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) maritime and corporate registries. IRI has been administering maritime and corporate registries since 1948. The RMI registry (the “Registry”) is the world’s third largest registry, reaching nearly 83 million gross tons and over 2, 600 vessels by the end of May 2012. Consisting of owners and operators primarily from Greece, the United States, Germany, Norway, Japan, and the Middle East, among others, the Registry is truly international.

The RMI Registry works closely with owners/operators, classification societies and other industry stakeholders to foster safe, secure and efficient vessel operations.The Registry is highly regarded for its decentralized operations, service-oriented philosophy and fleet quality. Its infrastructure, including 25 worldwide offices, has been built not only through the decentralization of operations but also through well-resourced offices with personnel experienced in the shipping industry; e.g., master mariners, bankers, crewing experts, class experts, port state experts and a network of nautical inspectors worldwide, among others.  “Everybody knows that shipping is an international business; for the RMI, nearly 70% of the vessels entering the fleet are newbuilds coming out of shipyards in Asia, with ownership and financing coming from the United States, Europe or Asia, ” said Mr. Xenakoudis, Managing Director or IRI’s Piraeus office. This worldwide network is a key strategic factor of success for a modern ship registry in today’s shipping environment; owners/operators are able to interact with the flag State around-the-clock, in their own language and time zone. “Decentralized operations, with offices located in areas with significant shipping activity, ensure seamless interaction when registering a vessel and also provide post-registration services such as the ability to closely monitor ships calling at those ports and maintaining effective communication with port State Control officials, ” continued Theo Xenakoudis.

Port State control (PSC) is the key indicator with respect to the quality of a registry. “Owners and operators today are looking at increasing the level of quality and efficiency in their operations; the choice of flag State contributes positively to this particularly when it is white listed by the various Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs). There is a lot of transparency in shipping today and every third party (e.g., charterer, bank or PSC) can make its own assessment by looking into the various online databases that record and track this information, ” explained Mr. Xenakoudis. Flag States like the RMI that are white listed with the Paris and Tokyo MoUs and are Qualship 21 certified with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) receive positive marks by industry stakeholders. Increased PSC schemes, such as the Paris MoU’s New Inspection Regime (NIR), provide another mechanism for assessing flag State performance.

As the world becomes more complicated and regulated, it is necessary to reflect the various disciplines within the Registry infrastructure. One of the primary objectives of a modern flag State should include its reputation as a quality flag designed for safety-conscious shipowners. Central to achieving this is a no-nonsense approach to regulatory enforcement. “With the ongoing proliferation of regulations, a reputable flag State has a growing responsibility to advise owners about the rising number of international laws, conventions and regulations. It should contribute to the regulatory environment via a permanent delegation at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), enforce any necessary regulations and conventions, and also encourage owners and operators to wholeheartedly embrace the concept of quality shipping. The role of the flag State in today’s complex shipping environment is crucial, ” explained Mr. Xenakoudis.

“The benefits of a modern flag State to shipowners include the convenience of direct, on-the-spot personal contact and support, prompt and effective decisions, local market understanding and business conducted in the same time zone and in the owner’s own language, ” concluded Mr. Xenakoudis.

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