Another new year starts so it is time to reflect on the past year in the shipping world. We have seen many new cruise ships come into service and many ferries and other vessels having modifications to reduce emissions which is a very good thing.To me, one of the more pleasing moments of the year was to see the giant container ship CMA CGM Kerguelen arrive at Southampton in May. At 175,688 gross tons she is one of the largest vessels flying under the British flag. She docked at Southampton’s purpose-built 500 metre deep water berth, SCT 5, built to accommodate ultra-large container ships. It is refreshing to see that this fine French company now has 44 of its vessels flying the red Ensign.
After a long period when the British registry has declined, it is really good news to see this company putting its faith in the British flag.
However, things are not all rosy. CMA CGM’s Danish competitors Maersk Line have announced that are taking six container ships out of the British registry as apart of what they call a “simplification” process. Three of the vessels will be re-flagged to Singapore, two to Denmark and one to Hong Kong. The company expects the moves to be completed by the middle of the first quarter of 2016.
“It’s not really a cost saving, it’s more of an efficiency process in terms of a reduced number of flags and administrations to deal with,” Maersk’s chief executive John Kilby stated.
The departure of the six ships will leave the London-based subsidiary of Maersk Line with two drillships on the UK register and one oil tanker, which is on long-term charter to the UK Ministry of Defence.
Two containerships will remain UK owned for a period, due to the nature of the leases they were purchased under, but sail under the Dutch flag.
This is a retrograde step as far as the British registry is concerned and personally I am sorry that Maersk have deemed it necessary to take this step. I know that the container ship industry has not had a great year and that Maersk’s profit forecast is down to a mere $1.6 billion but losing vessels from the British registry is disappointing.
In the past few years we have seen traditional British companies such as Cunard and P&O, re-flag their fleet in Bermuda. These two companies are now owned by the US-based Carnival Corporation so that move was hardly surprising. However, as these products are being marketed as British brands, I think their vessels should be seen to be British in every way and that includes their registry.
I believe I am correct in saying that there is now only one cruise ship registered in Britain, the 2,112gt Hebridean Princess.
What has happened to our great British registry of yesterday?
Finally, I would like to wish all our readers a very Happy and prosperous New Year.