Liberia International Shipping Registry Remains Second Largest

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Monrovia – There is no dispute regarding who is the number two flag of convenience in the world, according to the Liberia International Shipping Registry.

Citing payments of International Maritime Organization(IMO)dues based on fleet size, LISCR responding to a FrontPageAfrica inquiry at the weekend, said, the IMO clearly assesses rankings based “gross tons” as affirmed by the statement in previous year report.

The IMO recently confirmed that the Liberian fleet exceeds 134m gross tons-worlds second ship registry.

“The Republic of Liberia has paid in full its Annual Assessment Contribution for 2015 to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

On February 16, Margaret Ansumana, Deputy Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Alternative Permanent Representative of the Republic of Liberia to IMO, presented IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu with a cheque for 3m GBP to cover payment of Liberia’ s 2015 annual assessment.

The IMO assessment is based on the size of the fleets under the registers of individual countries. The Liberian fleet now exceeds 134m gross tons, making it the world’s second largest ship registry.

LISCR in a statement later said that by March 2017 the “Liberian Registry had passed the historic milestone of 150 million gross tons of shipping, confirming its position as the second largest ship registry in the world, behind only Panama, in terms of numbers of ships and gross tonnage.

“While Panama is the largest overall flag, Liberia is the largest quality flag state based on international safety measurements.”

LISCR Cites Track Record

The clarification comes in the wake of a recent claim by the International Registry Incorporated that it is on the verge of surpassing Liberia to become the second largest flag in the world after Panama.

The flag administered by Virginia-headquartered International Registries, Inc(IRI), claimed that it became the largest flag in Greece last November and declared: “For IRI, surpassing Liberia is a particularly sweet moment:

If growth patterns remain the same, it is anticipated that the RMI Registry will move from the third to the second largest worldwide.

It claimed that at the end of 2016, its registry had 3,702 ships equating to 128.1 m dwt on its books. However, Liberia claims the largest fleet in Greece as of March 2017 based on number of vessels.

The Liberian Registry says its extensive cooperation with major institutions such as the US Coast Guard and international port authorities has supported its world-leading reputation.

“The Registry has long been considered the world’s most technologically advanced maritime administration. It has a long-established track record of combining the highest standards of safety for vessels and crews with the highest levels of responsive service to owners.

Moreover, it has a well-deserved reputation for supporting international legislation designed to maintain and improve the safety and effectiveness of the shipping industry and protection of the marine environment.”

But LISCR, in a statement acknowledged that while there is currently intense global competition for business in the ship registration sector, it welcomes the competition.

“Based on quality, safety and service, we are excited about our immediate and long-term prospects.

Recently Liberia has mutually elevated its diplomatic status with China to enhance its bilateral ties.

This preferential relationship has provided Liberia flagged vessels substantial cost advantages over competing flags vessels entering Chinese ports. Liberia is actively enhancing similar ties with other major trading nations.”

According to the IMO, the tonnage registered under a foreign flag, that is, where the nationality of an owner differs from the flag flown by a vessel is 70.2 per cent of the world total.

“The system of open registries (that is, where the owner and flag are from different countries) has been an opportunity for many developing countries – including many small island developing States, such as the Marshall Islands, and least developed countries, such as Liberia – to provide the services of vessel registries.

At the same time, the majority of shipowners remain in developed countries, and it is due to the system of open registries that they may remain competitive against fleets owned by companies based in developing countries.”

The IMO cites that under the flags of Liberia, the Marshall Islands or Panama, an owner from Germany or Japan can employ third-country seafarers, for example from Indonesia or the Philippines, who work for lower wages than their German or Japanese colleagues.

As at 1 January 2016, Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands continued to be the largest vessel registries, together accounting for 41.0 per cent of world tonnage, with the Marshall Islands recording the highest growth among major registries, at 12 per cent over 2015. The top 10 registries account for 76.8 percent of the world fleet in terms of dwt.

Old Feud Resurrected

The clarification resurrects an old feud between LISCR and IRI. IRI, the company that administers the Marshall Islands ship registry, filed a lawsuit against Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, LLC (LISCR) in state court in New York seeking damages of over $10 million.

The suit alleges that LISCR, at the behest of the Government of Liberia and its president Charles Taylor, breached its material obligations to, among other things, make payments to IRI in connection with LISCR’s assumption of Liberia’s corporate and maritime programs that International Registries formerly operated from 1949 to 1999.

LISCR dismissed the suit at the time, insisting that it was a private company operated and fully owned from the United States by U.S. nationals, completely independent of the Liberian government and complies fully with all aspects of US regulatory law.

LISCR says that since assuming control of the Liberian Registry on January 1, 2000, it has made significant gains in both its ship registration and corporate registration activities.

Liberia’s maritime registry was an important source of finance for the government during the height of the civil war when ship registry fees and taxes generated some $18 million a year, as much as 25 percent of the nation’s revenue, by some estimates.

The legal dispute that removed IRI and awarded the contract LISCR dragged on for so long those Liberian flag owners grew nervous about the future stability of the registry, according to the U.N. report.

But industry experts doubt the latest disagreement could replicate that feud although LISCR sources say hint that IRI may be manipulating IMO statistics for industry headlines.

“With respect to the facts, the Registry has actually grown for the last 10+ years and more than doubled in size,” an official said Saturday. “Also the true rankings by United Nations (International Maritime Organization) have Liberia at #2.

”Deadweight tonnage” noted by Marshall Islands is not a relevant statistic or recognized by the United Nations IMO for calculating its assessments.

Deadweight simply reflects the cargo space of a ship not the actual size of the ship or # of ships. For its assessments the UN measures based # of vessels and gross tonnage, which are the actual figures that show Liberia at #2.”

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