Flag State Audit 2003
provides a comprehensive, independent and critical guide to the shipping registers of the world. It is the result of a 3 year study analysing the regulatory capacity of 37 flag states including national flags, open and second registers.

A unique part of Flag State Audit 2003 is the development of a ratings system which allows the reader to compare at-a-glance the performance of flag states across a range of measures. In addition to providing an overall rating, the system analyses the effectiveness of regulatory regimes in five distinct categories and assigns a grade ranging from A-E (where A=best practice) for each of these areas of activity.

Flag State Audit 2003 (book and CD-ROM) contains:

  • background information to the study and a discussion of the flag state regulatory environment
  • in depth country reports for each of the 37 flags on the accompanying CD-ROM
  • comprehensive ratings for all 37 flags
  • detailed explanation of the audit scheme used to assess the regulatory capacity of flag states.

Click below for sample country reports:


The full 600 page report, Flag State Audit 2003 (book and CD-ROM) is available for £160 (including postage and packing) from:
Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC)
Cardiff University 52 Park Place
CF10 3AT
Tel: +44 (0)29 2087 4620 Fax: +44 (0)29 2087 4619 sirc@cardiff.ac.uk

Press Release:

In the Wake of Further Oil Disasters,
New Study Highlights Failing Flags
The events surrounding the sinking of the Bahamian registered oil tanker, the Prestige, off the Spanish coast, have emphasised the role of the flag state ensuring the safe operation of vessels. A number of oil disasters such as the Torrey Canyon, the Sea Empress, and, more recently, the Erika, have also drawn attention to a link between environmental disasters and flags of convenience.

"Current flag state practice enables vessel registers the freedom to define a regulatory environment in any way they see fit" said Dr. Nik Winchester (Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC), Cardiff University), "Strong state regulation affects the desirability of the flag state to shipowners. In this market for flags, the profit motive and effective regulation compete, ultimately, to the detriment of the latter."

The Flag State Audit 2003, by Dr Nik Winchester and Dr Tony Alderton, develops a method of measuring the regulatory capacity of flag states. The audit assumes that issues relating to the seafaring labour force are of equivalent importance to those concerned with administrative and technical matters; the system analyses the effectiveness of regulatory regimes in five distinct categories and assigns a grade ranging from A-E (where A=best practice) for each of these areas of activity. In overall terms, flag states are grouped into four bands, from 'high' to 'poor', according to the extent and effectiveness of their regulatory regimes.

Regulatory Capacity Flag
High DIS (Danish Second Register), GIS (German Second Register), Kerguelen Islands , Netherlands, NIS (Norwegian Second Register), Norway, Philippines, United Kingdom
Good Bermuda, Canary Islands, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Estonia, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Latvia, Madeira, Netherlands Antilles, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine
Modest Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Lebanon, Liberia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Panama, Vanuatu
Poor Cambodia, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Commenting on these results, Nik Winchester stated, "There are clear divisions in the regulatory power of flag states; a large number of open registers have failed to produce adequate regulatory regimes that ensure the safe operation of vessels, safeguard labour standards and ensure the transparency of vessel ownership."

Concerning the worst performers, Dr Winchester stated: "In these newest flag states we can see the almost total lack of regulation. These super unregulated registers, such as Cambodia and Equatorial Guinea, mop up those vessels deemed too risky to the more established open registers, such as Panama and Liberia, thereby extending the working life of such vessels in an almost regulatory free manner."

"Effective regulation depends upon the existence of a network of shared responsibility. All stakeholders in the maritime industry need to take an active stance in the maintenance of vessel standards and their operation" said Dr Winchester, "However, the flag state is often the weak link in the regulatory chain."

The study is the result of 3 years extensive research involving the collation of a wide range of factual information and the devising of a verifiable method of evaluation. The audit was originally commissioned by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in 1999. The report was delivered in June 2001. After a 6 month period, during which ITF affiliates were invited to submit comments and any corrections of fact, the ITF released copyright to SIRC in January 2002. Following the receipt of comments and internal discussion in SIRC, the entire audit was repeated in 2002 to bring it up to date and revise the scheme of evaluation.

For further information contact SIRC - +44 (0)29 2087 4620.