Despite 2009 being one of the most challenging years for the shipping industry, the Marshall Islands Registry and more specifically International Registries Inc., which represents the registry and its Hellenic branch, have proven rather resilient. In
an interview with Hellenic Shipping News, Mr. Theofilos Xenakoudis, Director of Marshall Islands Registry Piraeus, outlines the latest initiatives undertaken by the registry, especially in terms of the issue of piracy. The Registry closed its third quarter with 50.6 million gross tons and more than 2,060 registered vessels.Β This reflects an 11% growth over the third quarter of the previous year in terms of gross tonnage.Β The overall average growth rate of the fleet over the past five years, in terms of gross tonnage, is at 20%. At the same time the Hellenic customer base has become the largest group of owners and operators represented in the Marshall Islands Registry.
Could you outline the latest initiatives by the Marshall Islands Registry in terms of the latest convention (MLC 2006) which consolidates and updates the 68 ILO Maritime Labour Instruments?
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) deposited and entered into force the ILO Constitution in July 2007 and acceded to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 in September 2007. A "gap analysis" was then conducted to determine what amendments needed to be made to the RMI Maritime Act (the "Act") to bring it in line with the MLC, 2006.Β Only a few modifications were needed as the Act was already largely in line with the Convention and, earlier this year, amendments were made in the Act to provide for the medical care of seafarers, to raise the minimum age at sea from 15 to 16 years of age, to provide for vacation time of at least 2.5 calendar days per month of employment and to bolster the repatriation rights of seafarers.
What kinds of improvements to the maritime business are implemented through this new Convention?
The MLC, 2006 applies to a broad range of work and living conditions of seafarers serving aboard ships including safety and health concerns. It allows certain flexibility in the way these rights and principles are implemented and ensures these rights and principles are complied with and enforced. It sets forth minimum requirements for seafarers aboard ship, covers conditions of employment, addresses accommodations, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection.
When will these changes come into force?
The MLC, 2006 will only come into force 12 months after the date on which there have been registered ratifications by at least 30 Member States with a total share in the world gross tonnage of ships of 33 percent, which has already been exceeded. As nations continue to accede to the MLC, 2006, it is expected that the Convention may come into force as early as December 2011.
One of the major issues in today's industry is piracy on high seas. How is Marshall Islands dealing with the continuous incidents of piracy?
The RMI is active in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia which was organized by the United Nations. The RMI was an original signatory of the New York Declaration, a document in which a growing number of flag States call upon shipowners and operators to follow internationally recognized best management practices (BMPs) in countering the piracy threat. The RMI has worked closely with the IMO and with governmental, intelligence, military and industry interests to develop the currently accepted BMPs. The Registry also works closely with its vessel masters, owners and operators to keep them apprised of changes in those BMPs and to update them of threats.
What advice are you providing towards shipowners?
Through an ongoing series of Marine Safety Advisories and Marine Notices, vessel masters, owners and operators are sent the latest and best advice relating to counter-piracy strategies. Additionally, the administration tracks all its ships 24/7 through a satellite based LRIT system and is available to respond to emergencies around the clock through its Duty Officer system which provides both telephone and email contact and the ability to relay distress signals to the appropriate authorities.
Could you give us the latest figures from the beginning of the year in terms of the Registry's development in numbers of ships and vessel types?
The Registry closed its third quarter with 50.6 million gross tons and more than 2,060 registered vessels.Β This reflects an 11% growth over the third quarter of the previous year in terms of gross tonnage.Β The overall average growth rate of the fleet over the past five years, in terms of gross tonnage, is at 20%.
What about your Hellenic clientele?
Just this year, our Hellenic customer base has become the largest group of owners and operators represented in the Marshall Islands Registry. In terms of gross tonnage, our Hellenic customer base represents 22% of the fleet. Moreover, in accordance with recent reports, the Marshall Islands represents 12% in the Greek interests' fleet, being the second fastest growing foreign flag within 2008
How has the latest rather challenging year for the shipping industry affected your business?
The Registry has continued to grow through the down economy and has worked closely with owners and operators to ensure that safety standards are maintained aboard ship. Additionally, the Registry offers advice and consultation to owners who wish to lay-up vessels and to those now bringing ships out of lay-up.
Do you share the view that a contract cancellation doesn't necessarily mean that a vessel won't be built? In fact, many cancelled contracts are actually being resold to other buyers, mainly from China.
It is generally known that newbuild vessels in the orderbook are often bought and sold during the design and construction process. This practice is not specific to the current economic condition . . . although it may be more frequently practiced in recent months.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide