Commenting on the continuing furore over the release of the Panama papers, ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) president Paddy Crumlin said: “Cover up, silence, secrecy, zero accountability. Those are what these leaks have exposed. For those who have campaigned against flags of convenience (FOCs) in shipping, these new facts, shocking though they are, will not come as a total surprise.
“Since 1948 our organisation has fought against FOCs. Panama was the first of these. It’s now the biggest. The whole FOC system is based on a culture of secrecy and lack of accountability. It is a global system of pushing money around, using brassplate companies and tax havens, money laundering and tax evasion. Those who can afford the most are paying the least. The innocent are going unprotected, the guilty are going scot free.
Mr Crumlin was speaking from a meeting of the ITF executive board in London, which joined him in stating the case against the lack of oversight and accountability enshrined in the FOC system and vividly underlined by the release of the Panama papers.
The executive board praised the exposure of institutionalised injustice and wrongdoing made possible by the release of the papers and condemned FOCs for their lack of the genuine link between a ship’s owner and the flag it flies (the genuine link is the central principle behind the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). FOCs offer anonymity, a dangerous lack of transparency, cheap registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom from oversight." (See also http://www.itfglobal.org/en/transport-sectors/seafarers/in-focus/flags-of-convenience-campaign for more details)