PM: Flag-of-Convenience Registry Needs Reform

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.




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