Private Ship Registry Did Not Monitor Compliance

The privately-operated International Ship Registry of Cambodia (ISROC), a South Korea-based company that owns the rights to register foreign vessels under the Cambodian flag, told ship owners last year that it was not monitoring their observance of international maritime laws, and that it was their own responsibility to ensure compliance. The European Commission (E.C.) warned the Cambodian government in November last year that it had to ensure that Cambodian-flagged vessels stopped plundering the oceans and comply with international laws and regulations, or face a ban on seafood imports from Cambodia. … A month after the November warning, ISROC posted a circular on its website—which has been offline since the weekend—stating that the number of Cambodian-flagged vessels using fake certifications at international ports was not decreasing, and warned ship owners that this was against the “Reformatory Clean-Up Policies” of the Cambodian government. The ISROC then states that it is a ship owner’s “Own Obligations and Duties” to comply with international laws, thus absolving the South Korean company of responsibility for illegal actions by ships flying the Cambodian flag provided by the company. … In 2012, newspaper reports revealed that a ship owned by a company in China, but registered under the Cambodian flag, had transported missile-launching vehicles to North Korea. A decade earlier, in 2002, after Cambodian-flagged vessels were found to have been trafficking weapons technology and cocaine, the government stripped the Singapore-based Cambodian Shipping Corp. of is right to register ships under the Cambodian flag. A year later, ISROC paid the government $6 million to buy the rights to operate the ship registry, according to Seng Lim Neou, an official with the Council of Ministers, who is in charge of cooperation with ISROC.

Denise Hruby