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Marshall Islands Registry in growth mode

With Hellenic ship owners remaining the leading ship owning group, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Registry has continued on its solid growth path during 2011, now surpassing the 80 million gross tons mark. In an interview with Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide, Mr. Theofilos Xenakoudis, head of the Registry’s office in Hellas, said that during 2011, the Hellenic-owned fleet registered in the registry grew by 28% in terms of gross tonnage. “The Registry has been working more closely with owners and operators during this global financial downturn to ensure that quality remains a focus” said Mr. Xenakoudis. He also discussed issues like environmental regulations and of course piracy and the use of armed guards on board ships.

How has the 2011 year progressed for the Marshall Islands Registry in terms of new tonnage added?

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Registry (Registry) experienced another year of very strong growth in 2011. In terms of gross tons (GT), the Registry grew by 20% (+13 million GT), reaching nearly 80 million GT by year’s end.

What about your Hellenic-based clients?

The Piraeus office is one of the largest offices of the Registry’s network, behind the worldwide headquarters which are located in Reston, VA. Hellenic-based clients remain as the Registry’s largest shipowning group followed by the United States, Germany and Norway. During 2011, the Greek-owned fleet registered in the RMI increased 28% in terms of gross tonnage (+3.9 million GT). The Registry continues to have a strong and growing partnership with Hellenic-based clients.

In terms of international presence and services provided, which have been the main initiatives from Marshall Islands Registry this year?

The Registry continues to focus on the decentralization of services to its regional offices. With recent openings in Long Beach, California and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, International Registries, Inc. and its affiliates (IRI) now operate a network of 25 full-service offices around the world. The worldwide offices are linked not only by a common philosophy of service but by a unique, unified database that allows seamless handling of issues ranging from registrations and mortgage recordations to technical issues that can begin in Asia and be followed through Europe and into the Americas, if needed, to resolve the issue. The main factor that differentiates the RMI Registry is its commitment to its customers and the services the Registry provides around the world.
The RMI is committed to international engagement, is a full member of the United Nations and is active in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its committees and working groups, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other governmental and industry groups. The RMI is also a signatory to all major maritime conventions and instruments.

These days, a registry’s quality is among the main parameters for its success. How does Marshall Islands fare in this area?

The Registry continually strives to promote the quality of vessels in the RMI. Those vessels operating under the RMI flag achieve the highest ratings in the port State control (PSC) international rankings. The RMI is the only major open registry to be included on the White Lists of both the Paris and Tokyo Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) and to hold Qualship 21 status with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for seven consecutive years. The RMI is also listed on the “Low Risk Ships” list within the Paris MoU’s New Inspection Regime.

Needless to say that 2011 has been quite challenging for ship owners across the board. How has this shaped the role of shipping registries in this difficult environment?

Shipowners have traditionally been discerning in choosing registries for their vessels and in today’s challenging economy, they are even more so. In seeking a registry that provides quality and unparalleled customer service, more and more shipowners are choosing the RMI Flag. The RMI Registry has put a premium on quality since its inception and it is owing to a unique combination of quality, decentralization and customer service that has made the Registry the third largest in the world.
Maintaining a quality fleet is particularly challenging these days when many owners are watching every penny to maintain profitability and communication is a critical factor in working with cash-strapped vessel owners and operators. The Registry has been working more closely with owners and operators during this global financial downturn to ensure that quality remains a focus. Also, having technical experts in offices around the world is an aid to owners, who can contact maritime experts in their own time zones and speak to them in their own languages.

Currently, the issue of “green” shipping is among the most prominent in the business. How do you think the new rules and regulations are going to impact ship owners and how are you planning to help them?

The IMO is the means by which the international shipping community is able to address critical issues facing the maritime industry. The RMI maintains a permanent representative at the IMO and participates in all of the major committee and sub-committee meetings. Key issues currently being discussed at the IMO include Guidelines for Ship Recycling, and MARPOL, Annex V (Garbage) and Annex VI (Mandatory Energy Efficient Design Index (EEDI)). With respect to MARPOL, Annex V, what has recently been accomplished at the IMO is to establish provisions for regional reception facilities and commence work on guidelines for the handling of cargo residues. Additionally, the IMO definitively established that EEDI applies only to new construction on and after 1 January 2013. It does not apply to existing vessels. However, the IMO is still addressing the issue of Market Based Measures which may incorporate technical equivalence to EEDI to provide incentives towards the reduction of green house gas emissions.
The Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) continues to be discussed as it has not been fully ratified, and there is concern overall as to whether or not BWMC is feasible in terms of being practical and affordable to the shipping industry at this time. Given the uncertainties still remaining regarding the efficacy of systems approved for use and their equivalency to the United States (US) standards, shipowners are understandably still reticent to move forward towards the installation of BWM systems. Member States are hesitant to ratify the Convention.
The RMI distributes Marine Notices, Marine Guidelines, Marine Safety Advisories, and Ship Security Advisories to keep owners and operators apprised of changes to international shipping regulations, PSC activities and to help avoid unnecessary delays and compliance problems.

Another pressing issue is the one of piracy? Which are the guidelines you follow when a ship is been hijacked or attacked and what type of support do you offer to clients?

The Registry, like the rest of the industry, has been challenged by regulatory issues facing shipowners and operators as well as the daily threat of piracy when transiting High Risk Areas. The Registry’s Regulatory Affairs department, further strengthened with representatives in Europe and the US, solely focuses on issues occurring at the IMO, International Labour Organization (ILO) and other international regulatory bodies. As an active participant in the United Nations Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (UNCGPCS) and its various working groups, the Registry has been proactive in updating counter-piracy Best Management Practices (BMPs) and ensuring that all RMI vessels follow those protocols in pirate infested waters. Additionally, the Registry is working closely with international, governmental and industry groups to forge responsible procedures for the use of embarked armed teams, which have proven effective in disengaging piratical attacks. Together with the Registry’s team of technical and marine safety personnel, clear guidance and support to owners and operators is provided in a timely fashion.
The RMI Maritime Administrator’s Marine Notice 2-011-31, Piracy Armed Attacks, Hijacking or Terrorism: Reporting Incidents, Ship Security Plans and Best Management Practices and Marine Guideline 2-11-12, Guidance for Company Security Officers on Preparing a Company and Crew for the Contingency of a Hijacking by Pirates (Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden) are regularly updated to provide timely guidance to owners and operators transiting High Risk Areas.

Do you believe that ships with security officers carrying arms will provide the solution to piracy?

The RMI Maritime Administrator, while not endorsing or prohibiting the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP) understands that shipping companies may find it difficult to identify reliable, professional and private providers of armed security. The decision on the employment of PCASP on board ships is a complex one for a shipowner. The absence of applicable regulation and industry self-regulation coupled with complex legal requirements governing the legitimate transport, carriage and use of firearms gives the RMI Maritime Administrator cause for concern. This situation is further complicated by the rapid growth in the number of private maritime security companies (PMSC) and the significant variation in competence and quality present across the spectrum of contractors offering services. Therefore, the RMI Maritime Administrator has published Marine Notice 2-011-39 to provide flag State policy to shipowners, ship operators and ship Masters considering the use of PCASP on board ships for the purpose of additional protection against piracy.
While PCASP teams have proven effective, the RMI continues to urge adherence to BMPs. The RMI worked with various industry groups to develop the first BMPs relating to counter-piracy strategies and has continued to be directly involved in the evolution of the process which is now in its fourth revision. The RMI was a charter signatory to the New York Declaration, a document presented through the UNCGPCS, in which major flag States agreed to promote adherence to BMPs by their respective fleets. The RMI was also a charter signatory to the Washington Declaration, a document designed to focus global attention on the plight of seafarers subjected to pirate attacks and those presently held captive by pirates. Through this agreement, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) was nominated to serve as a clearing house for information relating to the effects of piracy on seafarers.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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