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Meaning and use
The term ‘flag of convenience’ has for a long time been as widely used in the popular media as in the shipping industry. The phrase has come to signify the evils of rampant capitalism and the disregard of labour rights, safety standards and environmental protection in the pursuit of profit by anonymous offshore corporations. The phrase has developed a wide currency and emotive force, particularly following the significant oil pollution suffered as a result of the sinking of the tankers Exxon Valdez, Braer, Erika , and Prestige . Although a significant majority of the world’s merchant tonnage now operates using this model of registration and with the leading open registries consistently appearing in the White Lists of port State control statistics, the phrase retains a harsh pejorative tone. Now a historic reputation without foundation, based on prejudice rather than fact, without question it can no longer be seriously maintained that open registries or flags of convenience – per se – harbour sub-standard vessels or are unscrupulous in their compliance with international Conventions.
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