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they would have to switch to a country flag that would be less privileged according to IMO and would therefore cost them more insurance fees and have a larger inspection burden etc.
I am clueless about shipping. How does this work?
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According to my vague understanding - the IMO rates the shipping inspection regimes of various countries and this rating forms part of the insurance assessment.
So if you switch from Greece to Liberia all sorts of costs may go down, but the likelihood is your insurance costs will go up.
I can't see that a move to a flag of convenience in the long term would be cheaper than a one-off payment in the short term.
Some business owners may still throw their toys out of the economic pram to make a politcal point. But I'd guess a majority would be more hard nosed about.
The current narrative counts as lobbying and persuasion, not a genuine statement of intent.
But, don't expect help from Europe, if you're Greece. When a soda tax was prescribed by the troika for Greece, Hellenic Coca-Cola bottling (#2 bottling in the world after Coke Atlanta) threatened to move, and apparently there were suitors in Eastern Europe.
This is just like the transparency in banking accord that was just nixed by Austria and Luxembourg (among others) even as Switzerland AGREED to it!!
Flag choice will have little if any impact on insurance rates. No matter the flag, a ship owner can easily under-insure a ship, especially for old junkers hauling non-hazardous (bulk) cargo. It's their risk after all, plus tracing actual ownership can be very difficult if not impossible. For older ships, this option can be very attractive. Far more important to insurers is where (actually with whom) the ship is classed. The use of a reputable classification society (Lloyd's, American Bureau of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas...) will do much more to impress insurers than the flag on the stern.
Flag choice will impact inspections. Increased inspections by the three major Port State Control organizations (Tokyo MOU, Paris MOU and the US Coast Guard) will result in lower ship productivity and there will be greater uncertainty for a shipper but the major benefit is low crewing requirements/costs. Note also that the relationship between flags and their performance rating is not necessarily intuitive. Simply being European doesn't help the Belgians who are currently targeted by the Coast Guard and in the gray area for Tokyo MOU. Meanwhile, the Marshall Islands and Liberia are white (i.e. not targeted) for both of the MOU's and also non-targeted by the Coast Guard.
Regardless of the ship's classification or flag, I agree with the quote from the ship owner, good luck tracking these guys down now to make them pay taxes. For this tax to have been effective, they would have had to establish it quickly and without the ship owners' prior knowledge. Forget it now.
I say take away their houses, their TV stations, their newspapers, their bank accounts (retroactively too) and the clothes on their back when they try to leave the country. And just for good measure, they should be banned from owning property of any kind until they have returned the stolen assets.
For that matter, you can lock them up if they are dumb enough to stay in Greece after expatriating valuable assets for tax avoidance purposes.
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