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German shipowners call for political flag reform

Caption: © Selzer

The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) is quite satisfied with the development of the German fleet. However, this does not apply to the German flag or the local administration. “Everything from a single source” would be an important step, they say.

The debate about the German flag has been going on for many years. In the past, the main focus was on the costs[ds_preview].

However, in view of extensive financial support, the focus is now primarily on the quality of administration. It’s about reducing bureaucracy, digitalisation and a uniform flag state administration.

At the association’s traditional annual review and outlook in Hamburg today, VDR Managing Director Martin Kröger took the opportunity to put the flag management of German shipowners on the agenda.

German flag only in 34th place in the “Paris MoU” performance list

48.9% of ships operated from Germany now sail under an EU flag – 881 freighters. “A very positive development,” said Kröger, referring to the repeated criticism of the choice of supposed “flags of convenience”. According to the VDR figures, the most popular registers at the end of the year were those of Portugal (386 ships), Cyprus (135) and Malta (41) – outside the EU, Antigua & Barbuda (429) and Liberia (400) are particularly favoured. (In its official statistics for the end of February, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) lists 404 German ships with Antigua & Barbuda, 384 units with Portugal, 360 with Liberia and 126 with Cyprus).

dr. bornheim dr. kroger 2023 2
VDR President Gaby Bornheim and Managing Director Martin Kröger (© VDR / Ulrich Perrey)

According to the VDR, 259 ships fly the German flag. The local administration also recognises that there is room for improvement, and there is movement.

On the one hand, the VDR Managing Director today emphasised the political initiatives to reduce bureaucracy: “We very much welcome this”. However, he is also concerned: “When it comes to security, the German flag is no longer leading the way.” Kröger refers to the relevant performance list of the “Paris Memorandum of Understanding”, which assesses the quality of flags based on port state controls on board, among other things.

The most recent performance list of the Paris MoU only ranks black-red-gold 34th on the so-called White List – i.e. the list of “good” flags. However, it also only comprises 39 positions. By comparison, the other popular registers for German shipowners are all further ahead: Cyprus is ranked 8th, Liberia 25th, Portugal 26th, Malta 28th and Antigua & Barbuda 31st.

According to the VDR, this picture does not necessarily make the German flag any more attractive. So what can be done to convince shipowners? “Everything from a single source would be an important first step,” was the unanimous response from Kröger and VDR President Gaby Bornheim. In day-to-day business, shipowners currently have to work with five different authorities. “Other flags are much more streamlined,” said the Managing Director. Germany can certainly become more digital and abolish special regulations that are not helpful in reducing bureaucracy.

At least something seems to be happening when it comes to “uniform administration”. According to reports, talks are underway and the responsible Federal Ministry of Transport, under the aegis of FDP politician Volker Wissing, is aiming to simplify the structures. So far, however, no water level has been made public. “We don’t know what the current state of affairs is,” said Kröger today.

Irrespective of this, federal policy has now increasingly taken up the issue. The responsible authority BG Verkehr and the Federal Ministry of Transport have initiated new rounds of talks with shipowners, financiers and other maritime stakeholders. Bureaucracy is to be reduced and digitalisation driven forward. Listen here in detail to “Flagging-in Manager” Christian Bubenzer from BG Verkehr addressing the individual points of criticism in the HANSA PODCAST.

Bubenzer Hansa Podcast Flagge gross Kopie

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