Sunday, January 21, 2018

STRAIGHT TALK : Curbing ships flying Z’bar flag from carrying drugs is tough task


By Ally Saleh

        Once again the issue of ships flying the Tanzanian flag carrying drugs has cropped up, with the country being adversely mentioned although that actually has nothing to do with the state where such vessels were registered.

Ships are registered according to the International Maritime Law. A number of conventions guide this business to enable people to know which ship goes where and ends where to ensure security much as goods and passengers are transported.

The registration of a particular ship that carries a flag of certain country other than that of the owner is called business circles as flag of convenience in maritime parlance and every ship must have one such flag to be allowed to operate.

There are basically four main forms of registry in the maritime world. The first one is the traditional closed registry which is done on Tanzanian Mainland. This caters only for local ships. The second one is the international or open registry as it is conducted in Zanzibar to cater for any ship belonging to any owner living anywhere in the world.

The other two have evolved due to the manipulation for better terms. There is the secondary or also known as an off-shore registry, which involves paying lower salaries than paid to domestic sailors. The fourth one is the hybrid. This combines national and open registries.

In Zanzibar, the issue of flag registration is handled by the Isles Government, which has created its agency to undertake the work for the betterment of the archipelago’s economy. So far about 500 ships have been registered and carry the Zanzibar flag. These include ships carrying huge cargo from one international port to another other. According to the International Maritime Law, the ships have to abide by laws of the registered countries.

Countries that register ships are responsible for inspecting them.

That is not done physically by the home state of the ship but rather by internationally approved bodies. These are known as Flag State Inspectors who verify the documentation, inspect gear for firefighting, life-saving as a well as living conditions of sailors.

Ships are owned by human beings, operated by them and hence there are and will always be contraventions of local and international laws. Ships are caught carrying unauthorised cargo or drugs or illegal arms and so forth.

This has nothing to do, as I earlier said, with the registering state. Every effort might have been taken to ensure that the documentation and declaration by ship owner to do only legal business, and corruption for quick gains.

Sometimes such illegal activities have nothing to do with the owner too but by the character of the ship captain who risks carrying cargo that will generate quick money. On most occasions, members of the crew know nothing.

These activities including pirating and there is no way this can be completely stopped.

Yes, efforts can be taken and fear can be instilled but my point is that it should not be equated to mean it is lowering Tanzania’s image as such as it is not actually the work of the state.

In fact, the risk of a country being negatively named is always there and that is part of taking up this business.So, Tanzanians should know that.