Lambriex aims to collect fees from large vessels flying St. Maarten flag | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Arthur Lambriex, during the 2023 budget debate in Parliament, revealed a plan for an open register for large seagoing vessels to allow them to sail under the St. Maarten flag. Government expects to eventually collect millions in annual registration fees.

Under maritime regulations, each merchant ship has to be registered with one country. While the United Nations Convention on the High Seas states that a vessel should have ‘a genuine’ link with its flag state, current rules permit ships to sail under any flag regardless of their ownership. This is known as a ‘flag of convenience.’

Some 40% of the global cargo fleet is registered in Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands. These countries offer more convenient conditions and financial advantages as lower taxes and minimal regulations.

The flag state is responsible for monitoring ships’ compliance with international standards on safety, pollution prevention and on-board working conditions. A large civil service and the means of enforcing the rules are essential to guarantee the completeness and efficiency of inspections and surveys undertaken to issue the relevant certificates. However, as there is currently no binding international framework to regulate the registration process, each country sets its own laws and regulations.

Minister Lambriex told Parliament that he is confident that St. Maarten can establish relevant law and regulations before the end of 2023 to allow large seagoing vessels to register and fly the St. Maarten flag. “We have had consultations with both the Netherlands and Curacao,” Lambriex said. “The Ministry of TEATT is currently compiling all the information received, in order to have a Request for Proposal published. Based on the responses, we will decide how we will move forward.”

Minister Lambriex expects the offering of services and collection of fees to start “soon”. Asked for clarification by Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams, the minister said that he relies inter alia on advice from REB Maritime NV in Curacao, owned by ocean shipping consultant Richard Erwin Britt. Advice from REB Maritime NV is said to have been obtained as early as 2019, on behalf of the then Minister of TEATT Stuart Johnson. This would explain why REB Maritime NV is not listed on the 2023 TEATT budget.

Source: The Daily Herald