The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is preparing to crack down on substandard ship registries and the issue of illegal ship registration.
The IMO agreed on a series of measures after a legal committee session last week which included the creation of a comprehensive database of registries and ways to improve information on the illegal registration of ships. Other recommendations included enhanced verification of vessels through their unique IMO numbers and adherence to the requirement for an onboard record of a ship’s history.
The move follows reports of fraudulent use of their flag by a number of IMO member states. Information compiled by the IMO secretariat on the cases received included: the registration of ships without the knowledge or approval of the relevant national maritime administration; the continuous operation of a ship registry after the contact with the registration company has expired or has otherwise been terminated; the submission of fraudulent documentation to IMO, without the knowledge of the cognisant flag state authority, in order to obtain IMO documentation and ship identification numbers; the intentional manipulation of AIS data to materially alter the ship’s identifying information or to reflect the AIS data of an entirely different ship; and in certain instances the operation of an illegal international ship registry.
The IMO stated it will also work with the UN Security Council to create a searchable database that would show vessels subject to UN resolutions.
“Experience has shown that the raison d’être of fraudulent registries is to conceal illicit activity on board vessels, including activities prohibited by UN sanctions,” the US said in one submission to the IMO.
The issue of fake ship registrations has been on the IMO radar for a long time. In September 2017 Splash reported how the IMO was investigating 10 flag states who had revealed they had ships on their books that they had no idea about, registered from fake offices.
Two years ago, Splash reported how ships and seafarers were being illegally registered under a fake international registry. The Federated States of Micronesia, a tiny archipelago in the western Pacific, warned of the scam, which affected around 300 ships, in a letter sent to the United Nations.