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Sanctions & Flag States

Sanctions busting ship caught overseas - Flag State to the rescue? Owner of MV Lighthouse Winmore had to sue Hong Kong flag to find out.

Ship was impounded by S.Korean authorities for its involvement in illicit STS operations with a N.Korean vsl - in breach of sanctions put in place against N.Korea by UN Security Council. Within weeks, hull & liability insurances were cancelled and Class withdrawn. Unhappy with HK Flag's inaction in approaching UN sanctions committee to help secure release of the vessel, and its decision to de-register the vsl, shipowner sued HK Flag.

Referring to UNCLOS, the court noted that Art.91 does not impose duties on a Flag State to assist a vsl in seeking relief from sanctions. Its duties relate only to administrative, technical, safety and social matters of the vsl. HK does maintain a ship register, but lacks authority to approach the sanctions committee. Duty to act in accordance with para.9 of UN security council resolution 2397, rested with Beijing.

As regards de-registering, it was still under review by the Flag but in any case decision of Marine Director to embark on the de-registration process was rational & lawful since the certificates had been invalidated by BV and there were safety, environmental & other concerns.

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