Blog Link: Flags of Convenience as Tokens of Sovereignty.

datePosted on 10:13, August 30th, 2012 by Pablo

“Tokens of sovereignty” are state-issued commodities such as stamps, passports and internet domain suffixes. They differ from symbols of sovereignty such as flags in that only nation-states can legally own, sell and trade them. I examine the issues surrounding one such token, known as a “flag of convenience” (FOC), here.

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9 Responses to “Blog Link: Flags of Convenience as Tokens of Sovereignty.”

  1. IHStewart on August 28th, 2012 at 13:12

    I will blog myself about this later stealing all your great points. Interestingly there is considerable use of Foreign flagged vessels in the New Zealand fishing industry. The Korean flagged Oyang 75 shows some of the problems this creates. Ironically the Oyang company pays no tax here pays no ACC levies but New Zealand under law has had to make ACC payments and in some cases welfare benefits.

  2. Pablo on August 28th, 2012 at 13:24


    Yeah, part of the reason for the post was to draw attention to the use of FOCs in NZ waters. I had to stick to the 2500 word limit for the assessment so did not put in all of the data I found on the matter. Fisheries is indeed a major problem on several levels, and of course the Rena was flagged in Liberia, owned by Greeks and crewed by Filipinos. I remain very interested to know if any of the off-shore petroleum drilling platforms in NZ are officially listed as vessels under the SOLAS convention.

  3. Hugh on August 28th, 2012 at 20:20

    Some sub-state entities issue passports, such as Hong Kong.

  4. Pablo on August 28th, 2012 at 20:46

    Yeah, and HK flags its own boats as well. All part of its special territory status conferred by the agreements leading to the UK handover.

  5. Hugh on August 28th, 2012 at 23:45

    I wouldn’t call HK a nation-state, is my point.

  6. Pablo on August 29th, 2012 at 07:58

    Stop being a troll.

    Most free associated or compact states as well as protectorates are given limited sovereignty as part of their independence. This includes granting passports. The list of such states includes places like the Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and other small island nations. In HK the limited sovereignty concept was applied to the devolution from colonial to mainland authority.

    The subject of the essay is FOCs, not limited sovereighty.

  7. martin hector on August 29th, 2012 at 21:02

    If the PICs tighten up then those loose FOC countries in other parts of the world are going to be happy to take that custom

  8. Rich on August 30th, 2012 at 15:39

    Offshore rigs come in various types: some sit on the seabed on legs and some float. I suspect that if a rig floats and is movable (without being disassembled onto a barge) then it might come under ‘ship’ rules. Otherwise it’s a ‘structure’.

    There are various practical concerns around this – if the rig is moving, then the ‘captain’ and crew need navigation skills, which you wouldn’t need if it’s fixed.

  9. Pablo on August 30th, 2012 at 17:35

    Indeed Rich, that is what caught my attention when I started to research FOCs (which is a spin off from a larger project on So Pac fishery regimes). As I mentioned in the essay, floating barges are classified as SOLAS vessels and need trained maritime crews. I am now quite interested to know what sort of off-shore drilling platforms are in place in NZ waters (12 mile territorial snd 200 mile EEZ). Those off Taranaki appear to be structures as per your definition. But Petrobas has used SOLAS vessels for oil exploration before, so it will be interesting to see if it or other firms opt for the SOLAS versus fixed option as the explore their concessions in NZ waters. If they do, I am betting that they will use FOCs.

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