Government Denies Selling Ship Registry

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Mr. Phay Siphan reacts to the accusations by news agencies that the government sold National Ship Registry rights Phay Siphan reacts to the accusations by news agencies that the government sold National Ship Registry rights

PHNOM PENH,  (Khmer Times) –  “We did not sell the rights of the National Ship Registry; we  choose a partner for cooperation to manage the ship registry which has the  ability, specialty, necessary  code of conduct, quality and sustainable  financial capacity.”
In saying this, Mr. Phay Siphan, spokesman of Council of Ministers added that a journalist is only the messenger that brings the message to the public; theirs is not to express opinions. The words in the news that government sold National Ship Registry rights, is not correct.
He said this in a media conference called at the Council of Ministers to  clarify the news reports by several local media which had  accused the government of selling its National Ship Registry rights.
“We should focus on the words sold and chosen. Before 2002, the government of Cambodia chose Cambodia Ship Cooperation (CSC) as the partner, based in Singapore, for  managing the registry for vessels under  Cambodia’s national flag. However this company had many problems,” he said.
He added that after removing of the license of CSC in 2002, the government chose a new partnership with an entity which has a high professional reputation to continue handling the ship registry. 
“The government decided on cooperation with the South Korean company, Cosmos Group, as the partner for this work that involved creating  a new institution:  The International Ship Registry of Cambodia (ISROC), which was established on January 3, 2003.
Cosmos’ subsidiary, the International Shipping Registry of Cambodia (ISROC), took control of the registry on January 3, 2003 after the government cancelled the contract of Singapore-based Cambodian Shipping Corporation (CSC) in July 2002.
Mr. Seng Lim Neov, chief of inter-ministerial commission, who organized and controlled the implementation of the agreement to form the ISROC said: “The inter-ministerial commission includes the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, and Ministry of Economy and Finance, in order to control the companies with whom the government chooses to cooperate.”
Since ISROC’s inception, the Cosmos Group has paid over 6 million US dollars in collected funds, distributing it to the Royal Government of Cambodia, the International Maritime Organization and for costs such as inspectors to investigate crimes.
Previously, CSC offered online registration in less than 24 hours and accepted every boat,” he said. “Now, [ISROC] provide the provisional safety information, then we have it checked by an international company and passed on to the committee, who can decide to transfer it to the registry if approved. This way we know everything about the boats on our register.”
The Harmony Wish, a Cambodian-flagged cargo vessel  was seized for allegedly carrying missle parts to North Korea 
” There are some of Cambodia’s flagged vessels that have committed many mistakes, and crimes,  including drug transport, North Korea missile transport, and some vessels under the Cambodia national flag  or leased out the flag as “ a flag of convenience go to fish tuna in the maritime of other countries,” said Mr. Seng Lim Neov. 
“This is a serious blemish to Cambodia’s honor with the international community, so the Royal Government of Cambodia decided to stop the CSC activity at the end of 2002, and cooperate with another partner in 2003.” In 2014, Cambodia stopped listing the fishing vessels.
Mr. Siphan said that the total number of vessels that were registered with the CSC was 927. During the first ten years of ISROC, there were 1,560 vessels registered on the list. 
The ships which are currently operating in 2014 are only 549. It does not mean that they can do anything they want. The owner or insurer of the ships must be responsible for anything that they do.
“We are the regulator. We always follow the ships. If those ships go against regulation, and they do not reply back, we will remove them from the list. It is the rule of government,” he said.
The “flags of convenience” are little more than a legal “sleight of hand” that allows ship owners to avoid taxes in their home countries, plus the need to employ unionised workers on their vessels. Registering a vessel can be done entirely online and apparently takes no time at all.
The CSC has a rather bad reputation. French commandos boarded the Cambodian-registered freight­­er, the Winner, in the At­lantic Ocean in early June and seized almost two tons of cocaine allegedly bound for Spain. This took place in mid July 2002.
In an example of unintended economic consequences for the authorities here, in 2013, the European Commission announced on November 26th that it would impose a ban on all seafood imports from Cambodia because the country had failed to address any of the issues raised by the EU over illegal fishing operations by vessels carrying the Cambodian flag.
The term flag of convenience describes the business practice of registering a merchant ship in a sovereign state different from that of the ship’s owners, and flying that state’s civil ensign on the ship. Ships are registered under flags of convenience to reduce operating costs or avoid the regulations of the owner’s country. The closely related term open registry is used to describe an organization that will register ships owned by foreign entities.

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