The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has released its annual ‘flag state performance table’ for the shipping industry, highlighting the best and worst for safety and environmental protection. 

The ICS table highlighted several flag states that received a positive indicator in all of the categories used, including Bermuda, the UK, Norway, and Singapore, while other states such as Togo, Algeria and Comoros showed a large percentage of negative indicators. 

ICS Secretary General Guy Platten highlighted the notable improvements shown on the table from smaller flag states. He added that, while a number of flag states continued to record negative performances, there had been overall improvements in key areas such as attendance at IMO meetings. 

He described the table as a “valuable resource”.

“I encourage shipowners and operators to use this vital tool to examine whether a Flag State has sufficient substance before using it, and to put pressure on their flag administrations to affect any improvements that might be necessary; especially in relation to safety of life at sea, the protection of the marine environment, and the provision of decent working and living conditions for seafarers.”

While flag states are not directly responsible for the actions of the ships that fly their flag, the ICS’ table uses 19 categories across six different topics to rank the best and worst nations.

These include a state’s participation in international conventions and regulations, the average age of its fleet, and its relationship with three key port authorities. 

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Among these indicators is whether the flag state is on the white or black list of the Paris and Tokyo Memorandum of Understandings if it has ratified conventions such as SOLAS 1974, STCW 1978, and ILO MLC, and its use of Recognised Organisations (RO) in compliance with the IMO RO Code

Only the ratification of STCW 78, the convention on training, certification and watchkeeping standards for seafarers, was achieved by all flag states on the table, while inclusion on the Tokyo and Paris MOU white lists was one of the indicators met by the least amount of flag states. 

Other states that achieved a positive indicator in all categories included Greece, Hong Kong (China), Malta, Liberia, the Cayman Islands, Denmark, Japan, the Marshall Islands, and Portugal. 

The performance of flag states regarding worker rights was also noted recently by the International Transport Workers Federation, which identified Panama, Cameroon, and St. Kitts and Nevis as the flag states for the highest number of abandoned vessels in 2023.