Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Flags of convenience' harming Cambodia's image

'Flags of convenience' harming Cambodia's image

'Flags of convenience' harming Cambodia's image

MORE and more foreign ships are registering in Cambodia for a fee to avoid taxes in their own countries, but opposition lawmakers say flag of convenience licensing policies damage the Kingdom's reputation, saying that ship owners are smuggling drugs or weapons under the Cambodian flag.

"Registering these ships does not only damage Cambodia's reputation, but it is dangerous if some of those ship operators use Cambodia's flag to commit international crimes," said Sam Rainsy Party member Son Chhay.

There are currently about 1,000 ships registered in Cambodia, according to Seng Lum Nov, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, and global activity of Cambodian-registered appears to be rising.

In 1999, there were 190 port calls  to Japan's island of Hokkaido by vessels registered in Cambodia, which climbed tenfold to 1,900 port calls last year, Kyodo news reported.

During the same time period, Russian port calls to the island declined from 9,200 to 1,400, even though Russia continues to import much of its marine produce from the port. Kyodo reported.

Lax regulations

Ships are obligated to adhere to the laws of countries in which they are registered. That means that changing the registry to Cambodia, where the laws are relatively lax, could lower safety requirements and wages.

Japanese media has reported that "aged secondhand ships" are being used.

But Seng Lum Nov says the private company running the flag of convenience licensing in Cambodia has "good experience and working skills in the registration process".

"Our role is to act like a vehicle checker," he said.

"We have to make sure that a vehicle or ship is safe and secure. It has to have a pilot and comply with full equipment services... It needs to have radio contact and all of the required ship equipment."

He said that the ships registered in Cambodia were not necessarily Cambodian, but that the Kingdom still has the power to take away their local licences.

He added that the government has revoked licences midway through their registration agreements.

"If they commit a serious infraction, we have the right to withdraw their licence... It is like having a driving licence. If you break the traffic law, you will be arrested," Seng Lum Nov said.

Seng Lum Nov also claimed that Cambodia's flag registration fee was lower than in many developed nations, but it was by no means the world's cheapest, describing the fee as "between cheap and high".

He refused to disclose how much the government has collected in fees, the amount that authorities charge, or the name of the private company that has been contracted to run the flag registration.

He only said that the company charges a fee based on the size and weight of the ship and then shares that money with the government.

Ship registration had previously been handled by the South Korean-based International Ship Registry of Cambodia (ISROC), which re-launched flag-of-convenience operations in 2003 after it had been suspended amid concerns that the registration process was mismanaged and that Cambodian-flagged ships were being used illegally.

Son Chhay, an opposition lawmaker and former head of the committee in charge of transport and communication, said that Russian, Chinese and South Korean ships are using Cambodian flags because they are cheaper and that ships that violate the law are harming Cambodia's international reputation.

"To get a flag from us, it is cheap. If they face problems, it won't damage the reputation of their countries. We need to take more measures to screen these ships and review the policy on flag registration," he told the Post.

"If there is a shipping accident such as an oil spill or a collision at sea, they will hold Cambodia responsible," said Son Chhay.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • Woman who scaled Cambodia’s three highest peaks eyes Everest

    One of the very few Cambodian women to have successfully reached the Kingdom’s three highest peaks is now eyeing Malaysia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, and potentially even the world’s tallest straddling Nepal and China, Mount Everest. While in many Western countries it

  • Cheap, clean and efficient: The firm leading Cambodia’s solar revolution

    Sitting in her bright and airy 17th floor office, Rithya Menon, Okra Smart Solar’s lead firmware engineer, checks the frequently updating data telling her everything about how well their community services are operating. “I saw in the data that there was a problem with

  • PM Hun Sen: Cambodia will not die without EBA scheme

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday reiterated that he would not be overly concerned if Cambodia had its access to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) scheme withdrawn because the Kingdom would not die without it. Hun Sen was speaking to factory workers in