Cruise Ship Registration

Foreign Flagged Ship photoMost cruise ships of the world travel under flags of various foreign countries, and only a few are registered in the United States. The primary reason for this is because it enables them to avoid the stricter laws in the US pertaining to safety standards, taxes, disability, and employment.

Since the laws pertaining to cruise ships are often very much different than in the US, this means that they can operate under laws and costs that are much more lax. Employees on the ship, for instance, may have little recourse of action in the event of a disabling injury.

There are several restrictions in place that would limit which ships can sail under the US flag. To be registered in the US, a cruise ship must:

  • Be built in the US.
  • Be staffed by US crewmembers who are paid US wages.
  • Be owned by a US company and registered in the US.

When a cruise ship is built, it is allowed to choose the country and flag that it will sail under. Whatever country is chosen, those laws will apply that it has established for ships and cruise ships. Many countries do not have laws similar to those in the US, and they may not have adopted generally accepted international codes of law, either.

It is only natural to assume that a cruise line would choose a country that gives it the greatest degree of leniency and lower costs. Many employees on foreign flagged cruise ships find that they have no course of action left to them when they are raped, abused, or injured. In addition, it also leads – in some cases – to damage of the environment, exploitative labor conditions and unsafe work areas, and possibly even criminal behavior.

While this type of practice certainly is not universal, it does occur too often. Employees are also required to work a lot of hours – some international regulations permit work weeks of up to 98 hours, with 12 to 14 hours a day being rather common on some ships!

Some ships are deliberately registered with countries that are known not to look into the working conditions and safety practices onboard cruise ships. Oil rigs are also allowed to register with foreign countries of their choice. Countries that are notorious for such a lack of inspections are:

  • Panama
  • Liberia
  • North Korea
  • Mongolia.

Today, there are no cruise ships being built in the United States. With the current high costs of using US labor, it is doubtful that any more cruise ships will be built here, either.

If you are going to be working on a cruise ship, be sure to read the contract very carefully before signing it. While you are excited to be able to get the offer, the actual details may be real eye openers. It is also a good idea to see if you can talk to someone who has worked on that ship previously.

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