According to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), flags of convenience can be defined as: ‘where beneficial ownership and control of a vessel is found to lay elsewhere than in the country of the flag the vessel is flying’ (ITF, 2007, Pg.1).
There are two main modes of registering shipping vessels: closed and open registers. Closed registers are the conventional form whereby the ship owners and the majority of crew emanate from the registering country. Open registers or ‘flags of convenience’ are however those registrations, which are open to any nationality subject to the registering country’s regulations that are often very relaxed to attract as many ship-owners as possible. Open registers are further subdivided into two more categories: Open National Registers and Open International Registers. Under Open National Registers, the ships are obliged to follow the trading regulations of the flag-state encompassing employment and tax guidelines. In Open International Registers, the ships are less stringently regulated enjoying tax exemptions on their profits, easy employment terms for their international crews, lax company regulations and relaxed safety standard enforcement (O’Keefe, 2002, p. 4).
Although flag states are required to ensure that ships registered in their domain follow the requisite international laws in addition to administrative control, technical and social issues, however most of those licensing the flag of convenience (FOC) rarely bother to monitor the operations of the vessels. The United Nations has blamed these states for exacerbating marine accidents and compromising maritime security and safety (Gianni, 2008). According to the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) in Gianni (2008), ‘many shipping accidents and resulting loss of life and marine pollution are not the result of