During its 31st session on 25 November to 4 December 2019, the IMO Assembly adopted, among others, a resolution addressing fraudulent ship registration. The IMO recently put under the microscope over 300 ships involved in fraudulent vessel registrations operating without the knowledge of governments they claim to represent.
The Assembly resolution on this topic includes a procedure for communicating information on ship registries to IMO, including information on the name of national governmental body(ies) and authorized or delegated entities in charge of ship registration. Its aim is to allow the IMO Secretariat to verify the information, through the appropriate channels.
The database, approved for development in MSC 101, will also include information regarding countries which do not operate a ship registry, be it domestic or international.
This comes as a number of IMO Member States have recently reported of fraudulent use of their flag, which led IMO’s Legal Committee to develop a series of measures to prevent unlawful practices associated with fraudulent ship registration and fraudulent registries. These were adopted by the Assembly.
In the wake of recent geopolitical tensions and several sanctions impositions on countries such as Iran and North Korea, some ships have used tactics to avoid these sanctions such as turning off their AIS (automatic identification system) or falsely reporting their flag registry.
For instance, the global maritime regulator reported earlier in the year that 73 vessels were unlawfully flying the flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 91 vessels were illegally registered under the flag of Fiji and 150 vessels were unlawfully registered under the flag of the Federated States of Micronesia.