Zombie fleet swells as scammers fake registrations

Hundreds of vessels around the world are essentially trading as a zombie fleet with scams growing when it comes to registering ships, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has warned.

Frederick Kenney, director of the legal and external affairs division at the IMO, speaking at this week’s International Group of P&I Clubs Correspondents’ Conference in London, said action was needed to tackle the growing number of fraudulently flagged ships.

Kenney reported how around 10 flag states had revealed they had ships on their books that they had no idea about, registered from fake offices. As an example, he cited the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had 90 ships flying its flag that it had not officially registered.

In April, 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.

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. Don’t think IMO’s zombie metaphor aids understanding of the problem. They’re not dead, undead or walking dead. It’s a Dark Fleet ™ comprised of Shadow Ships ™!

  2. Incredible stuff and I’ve checked out your April article as well. No need to to actually set up a real FOC and then have to send a cheque every month to dodgy people in hot countries. Just fake it and get your criminal accomplice agents to hand out ship registration and trading certificates worldwide in exchange for cash. What a fantastic business model ! My MSc Maritime Studies students at NTU are going to love this one. As for the very helpful people at the IMO who handed out ship identity numbers to fraudsters, you can’t do anything but laugh at their gross incompetence.

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