Statement by ITF Seafarers Section Chair, David Heindel, on the US Coast Guard's Deepwater Horizon Report
“The US Coast Guard's recent report on the Deepwater Horizon tragedy reinforces the International Transport Workers' Federation's long-held position that so-called flag-of-convenience or runaway-flag vessels often facilitate and even encourage unsafe business practices. The ITF recognizes that there are conscientious FOC operators and many have well trained crews (regardless of their nationality), but many FOC operators have no regard for the mariners, their competency and other victims who suffer as a result of the runaway-flag system. Putting swift profits ahead of safety, runaway-flag entities also risk catastrophic environmental damage like that which occurred last year when the rig exploded.
“The ITF applauds the Coast Guard's focus on what happens when a flag state fails to oversee that its vessels comply with ISM and other international minimum standards. When rules and regulations are or become lax, conditions can deteriorate into confusion and chaos. This was seen aboard the Deepwater Horizon when it was off the Gulf Coast of the United States last year. It was not registered in the United States we has a rich maritime history, but instead with the Marshall Islands which lacks a strong regulatory regime.
“In addition, international maritime organizations such as the ITF see such dangerous examples daily off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Oman where 40% of the world's oil supply originates and in the Indian Ocean, as pirates count on such poor conditions to raid and capture under-crewed, under-prepared vessels and crews and poorly maintained vessels sailing under runaway flags. Piracy obviously pre-dates runaway-flag shipping, but the very same FOC system that arguably led to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy also is hampering international efforts to fight back against the modern version of at-sea terrorism. Without runaway flags, the vital task of ending piracy would be immeasurably easier as traditional maritime States would seek to protect their nation’s respective assets.”