“The Isle of Man used to be the best register you have never heard of,” quips Dick Welsh, the flag’s director. That has now changed.
“The message,” he tells Maritime CEO, “is out there that it is a great choice for quality operators looking for a flag that fits with their quality objectives and works alongside them in partnership to keep their ships operating to the highest standards in very tough economic times.”
The register has evolved and changed its operating models and its target markets as it has matured over its 33 years in existence as an international register. In the early days it focused on companies closer to home and expanded this network and area gradually thought time.
Since 2006, it has made changes to streamline its offering and combined this with targeted marketing in Asia.
“Once we have established a relationship with our owners and operators in a region and they see the benefits of working with the Isle of Man, we can easily expand the numbers of ships registering from these owners. This helps attract new owners as personnel move between companies and the word spreads by word of mouth and recommendations,” Welsh explains, citing Singapore as a great example of this and a real growth area for the flag. The Isle of Man tapped Captain Raja Ray to work as its business development manager in Singapore – a smart move as tonnage has poured in. Now, more than 60% of the flag’s registered tonnage is Asian-controlled, the vast majority of which is from Singapore. The Isle of Man has shot up the rankings in recent years and is now the 12th largest register in the world, and among the fastest growing.
“The choice of registry is fundamental to shipowners,” Welsh argues. “Whatever the state of the markets and the rate of change of the international regulatory scene; a good flag is a partner in the operation of ships. Conversely,” he adds, “a sub-standard flag can create problems and will not be there for owners in emergency situations, or when they need rapid advice and support.”
Welsh, who actually hails from the island and started out as a seafarer with CP Ships, admits that Brexit is a concern, albeit not for his flag that has never had the perks of being an EU flag.
“Brexit creates uncertainty and that is never a good thing,” he admits, before pointing out: “ That said, the Isle of Man’s position in the merchant shipping world is very clear. The Isle of Man is a British register and flies the Red Ensign, but it is not recognised as an EU Flag.”
Consequently, the EU incentives in terms of tonnage tax and access to cabotage trades in Europe have never applied to the Isle of Man. Nor do the EU Maritime Directives automatically apply.
“Therefore nothing really changes as far as our registry. We continue to hold a strong position as a British, non-EU register, which operates as an international register and secures business through the financial and political stability of its jurisdiction and the service levels it provides to, and the relationship it establishes with, its clients,” Welsh concludes.