UK flag overhaul looks to Singapore for inspiration

The UK Shipping Register could be in for a big overhaul next year with the Financial Times reporting Britain wants to rejig the flag after Brexit negotiations with the European Union are concluded. The FT, citing people who have seen the government proposals, suggests Britain’s tonnage tax system will be changed next month, as soon as the country is no longer subject to the EU’s state aid regime on subsidies.

The article, headlined ‘UK draws up plans to rival Singapore with post-Brexit shipping regime’, makes clear the British admiration of Singapore’s business regime.

The proposal seen by the FT repeatedly references Singapore as a benchmark for the UK’s post-Brexit aspirations.

Among the plans being discussed is enabling floating production storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) and drilling rigs to be included in the UK tonnage tax regime, something that EU rules do not allow.

The uncertainty brought about by the Brexit vote has seen the number of ships flying the UK flag fall by a third over the past four years. Pre-Brexit, the UK was among the world’s top 10 flags. Latest data from Clarksons Research places the Red Ensign in 21st place.

A UK Chamber of Shipping spokesperson told Splash this morning: “As we leave the EU we have the opportunity to develop our national shipping regime as we will no longer be bound by EU rules. Shipping and the wider maritime industry employs over 200,000 people and contributes over £46bn a year to the UK economy. We are working with the sector, and the government, exploring options to enhance the UK as an international hub for shipowning and shipping business.”

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.


  1. Hilarious.

    The writer has spent twenty years telling the MCA to study the example of Hong Kong, which at a technical level is perhaps even better than Singapore, to no effect whatever. “Not invented here” sums up two decades worth of responses.

    Now HMRC, the DoTp and their agency the MCA are being told by the outfit formerly known as the Conservative and Unionist Party, now better known as the Brexit, Incompetence and Sleaze Party, to “copy Singapore”, not because any of these political clowns have any practical knowledge but simply because they want to look like Singapore. Presumably that’s “Singapore without the public housing and the largely immigrant work force?”

    It would be good if the clowns would first observe that, as a matter of geography, a ship calling at a British port is likely to call at a port in the EU, and start by sorting out the position of the UK register in relation to cabotage trades, which I have drawn to the attention of each and every Shipping Minister for the past four years only to be told that it was “being included in the discussions”.

    Where has this got to?

  2. United Kingdom declared its own merchant fleet useless 40 years ago; And now all will be solved by popular vote???? It is a joke of nation.

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