The Superyacht Report asked captains to name the decision maker behind the choice of their yacht’s flag, with only 13.45 per cent revealing that they themselves took the helm of this selection. The largest group was that of owners (44.44 per cent), followed by owners' representatives (18.13 per cent) and yacht managers (14.04 per cent); the only category to come below captains was lawyers (9.94 per cent).
The Crew Report put these findings to Richard Eastham, chief executive officer of Regs4Ships, who also commented on the findings in the Report itself, and asked whether captains should be more involved when it comes to choosing a yacht’s flag. “Typically, the choice of flag for a yacht is determined by a misplaced fiscal need with little or no consultation with the vessel’s captain. I firmly believe that captains should be more involved in choosing the most appropriate flag for their vessel,” purports Eastham. He adds that captains who have a larger role in this decision are likely to find themselves less stressed and as a result have more time to concentrate on fulfilling owners’ and guests’ day-to-day expectations while they’re on board.
There are a number of considerations for captains, explains Eastham, should they become involved in this process. “The expected geographical cruising area of the vessel, including refit periods and whether the flag has adequate representation in all areas; the knowledge and experience of the flag of your particular type of vessel, including any unusual or high-tech features incorporated into the yacht; personal service levels – whether you can work with the flag surveyors sand whether they’re reasonable, sensible and non-dogmatic; and the flag’s propensity to prosecute – some flags are known to prosecute more than others.”
Captains who have a larger role in this decision are likely to find themselves less stressed and as a result have more time to concentrate on fulfilling owners’ and guests’ day-to-day expectations while they’re on board.
Captain Mike Hitch of Golden Odyssey, however, believes the choice of a yacht’s flag is not something with which a captain should be heavily involved. “The decision for a particular owner to register their yacht with a certain flag is, in my opinion, way beyond the remit of the captain. There are many decisions regarding which flag to choose and this will certainly be driven more by finance than it will be enforcing maritime regulations or looking after seafarers’ rights,” he says. Captain Hitch adds that the flags that see the most criticism are very rarely seen on the back of yachts and those that do fly less popular flags have been privy to problems as a result. “I do know of one yacht that was registered in Panama, who found port entry in Europe to be very difficult as far as checks on the yacht were concerned. Some ports were refusing entry on the grounds of flag state.”
One reasons that the decision lies largely with the owner and is based upon financial requirements may be the requirement for yachts to comply with maritime regulations irrespective of flag. “Regardless of which flag a yacht is flying, they still have to comply with the regulations of the country they are in. This is what Port State Control is all about and generally this does help to keep standards up,” concludes Captain Hitch.
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