Flags of convenience pose national security risks: Australian Senate

The Australian senate’s inquiry into flag of convenience (FOC) shipping has warned that FOCs pose a threat to national security.

The senate report which has just been published states: “The committee maintains that [FOC] vessels present serious security risks to the Australian coast, which need to be properly addressed.

“The committee takes the view that, by not agreeing to review the current state of the maritime sector in Australia, the government is failing to address the serious security, economic, human rights and environmental vulnerabilities in the sector.”

The Australian Border Force’s submission to the inquiry stated: “The Department notes that while a significant proportion of legitimate sea trade is conducted by ships with FOC registration, there are features of FOC registration, regulation and practice that organised crime syndicates or terrorist groups may seek to exploit. These features are: a lack of transparency of the identity of shipowners and consequent impediment to holding the owner to account for a ship’s actions; and insufficient flag state regulatory enforcement and adherence to standards.”

Reacting to the report the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) called on the government to crack down on FOCs.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin attacked the Malcolm Turnbell-led government for what was described in a release as “intentionally encouraging the morally ambiguous – at times criminal – underbelly of FOC shipping”.

“The Turnbull government has allowed Australian seafarers to be replaced by FOC lawlessness that now threatens our very national security,” Crumlin said, adding: “The solution is simple – stop destroying and start supporting and growing our domestic shipping industry and the Australian working men and women that work there and in doing so we will help keep our borders safe.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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