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 has recently reported 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.

To address this challenge, IMO is developing a comprehensive database of registries on the publicly accessible area of GISIS.

The database, approved for development in MSC 101, will contain the names and contact details of the national governmental body/bodies, or authorised/delegated entities in charge of registration of ships.

The database will also include information regarding countries which do not operate a ship registry, be it domestic or international.

In regard to the above, the Standard Club recommended operators to note the following IMO best practices:

  • ensure Flag State Administration contact information is up-to-date
  • prospective charterers should utilise the UN Security Council Sanctions List Search webpage
  • verify the relevant information relating to registries of ships in the 'Contact Points' module in GISIS.

The UN Sanctions Committee requires the relevant flag states to de-flag any vessels they have reasonable grounds to believe are involved in activities prohibited by the UN Security Council Resolutions, and other flag states should refuse to register the vessels which have been de-registered for that reason.

Meanwhile, the IMO and the UN Security Council are intending to develop by 2021 an easily searchable database that would show vessels which are subject to United Nations Security Council Resolutions.