Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for Cambodia’s flag-of-convenience shipping registry to be reformed, citing the damage that could be caused to the nation’s reputation if terrorists used Cambodia-registered vessels.
On Monday, however, the Council of Ministers official in charge of the ship registry concession deal with a South Korean company said the system was going well and should be continued.
“The flag registration system has to be reconsidered, otherwise the reputation of Cambodia will be destroyed by a foreign ship,” Hun Sen said on Friday at the annual meeting of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation. “If there was a terrorist problem on a Cambodian ship, how spoiled would the name of Cambodia be?”
He said that in the past, a ship flying the Cambodian flag had been caught smuggling drugs to France, and that another was found transporting missiles.
Council of Ministers Secretary of State Seng Lim Neou said the flag-of-convenience system should continue with the South Korean company Cosmos Group. “We can’t stop a business contract midway,” he said. “If we do so, the company can sue for breach of contract.”
A 10-year contract with Cosmos was signed in 2003, when the Council of Ministers took over the supervision of the registry from the Transport Ministry, he said.
He added that the government has earned $1.5 million in three years from the fees for registering foreign ships. He said that the only problem in recent years has been a Cambodian vessel caught illegally fishing off Australia in September, manned by a crew of Chilean, Peruvian, Spanish, Ukrainian and Russian sailors.
“Now everything is smooth, in good condition and strictly controlled,” he said.
The government discontinued its registry concession with the Cambodian Shipping Corp after a Cambodian-registered freighter, The Winner, was seized by the French Navy in June 2002 and found to be smuggling cocaine.
The Russian coast guard fired warning shots Saturday to stop a Cambodian-flagged vessel that was fishing illegally off the coast of the Bolshoi Pelis island; the vessel maneuvered dangerously at high speed in an attempt to escape, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday. A second Cambodian-flagged vessel was also discovered fishing illegally on Monday in the same area, Interfax reported. Both vessels, the Daring and the Aquarius 1, were being escorted to Russian ports.