The technical performance of a flag state is measured by a calculation based on the number of inspections and detentions of its ships over the past three years, where a minimum of thirty inspections have been carried out.
The result is a rating which determines the list, and the position on that list that the flag state appears. These lists known as the Black, Grey, and White lists have an impact on both the flag state and those ships flying its flag. MoUs around the world compile such lists, but it is the list compiled by the Paris MoU which is considered to be the worldwide index for flag performance.
It is the responsibility of a flag state to ensure that the ships that fly its flag meet all the various maritime requirements and IMO conventions. To fail to do this means that more of their ships are liable to be detained. This in turn can have a negative impact on their rating and position on the BGW Lists. The more their ships are inspected by PSC, unless the flag state has taken measures to improve the condition of its fleet, the more likely the number of detentions will increase.
For a ship owner, by flying the flag of a flag state with a poor record and which appears on the grey and black lists heightens the chances of their ships being inspected. Ships that fly the flag of a state on the black list are considered to have a high risk profile. When such a ship is due in a UK port for example, the operator, agent or Master must notify the Maritime and Coastguard Agency 72 hours in advance of its arrival, and the ship is more likely to be inspected than a ship on the white list.
Additionally, when a ship is flying a black listed flag, any detentions and Prevention of Operations are taken into account for a longer period of time. This means that the ship is more susceptible to being banned from a region. For example, for a grey listed ship to be banned it must have more than two detentions or PoOs within the previous 24 months, whereas for a black listed ship the period considered is 36 months.
The goal of every flag state should be to appear on the white list, and as high up on the list as possible. To fail to appear on the white list indicates that the flag state is not fulfilling its obligation of ensuring that its fleet is meeting the requirements of the International community.
To improve their rating, a flag state must monitor the performance of its fleet. This should be done in the form of flag state inspections, and by targeting the most common areas which are causing their fleet to be detained. Smaller and older vessels are more prone to be found with deficiencies and therefore to be detained. Often this will be due to poor general maintenance, and when a ship is not operating under a Safety Management System in accordance with the ISM Code.
Additionally, as the majority of flag states delegate the undertaking of statutory surveys to Recognised Organisations, they too should be monitored for performance by the flag state. The Paris MoU already uses a performance listing for Recognised Organisations. They basically use the same method of calculation as for the flag state table, counting detentions directly related to a statutory survey carried out by the Recognised Organisation.
By failing to be on the white list, a flag state is not only failing to meet its obligation in terms of registering safe and seaworthy ships, it is also putting it clients at greater risk of operational difficulties. This in turn makes the registering of a ship with such a flag state much less desirable to a ship owner.