HORTEN, Norway, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Liberia has selected a Norwegian company to increase security on its worldwide commercial fleet.
Liberia operates the world's second-largest maritime "flag of convenience" registry, exceeded only by Panama, with 3,500 vessels registered under Monrovia's flag.
Liberia is only one of around 30 countries that offer a flag of convenience register to the shipping industry.
Because of that Liberia's merchant shipping fleet more than three times the size of the United States'. Exemption of maritime commercial shipping income is authorized in the 1977 Liberian Business Corporation Act. Liberia has operated a maritime flag registration since 1948.
Among vessels flying Liberia's flag are more than 500 foreign petroleum tankers, 11 percent of ships worldwide.
Setting up a company in Liberia takes only 48 hours, which caused ship-owners from all over the world to register vessels in Liberia rather than under their own national flag. Currently 60 percent of the fleet on the Liberian register is owned by German, Greek, Japanese, Norwegian and U.S. shipping companies.
Liberia's maritime registry is an important source of hard currency for Liberia, whose exports plummeted amidst years of civil war. Some estimates conclude that that Liberian "flag of convenience" ship registry fees and taxes produce more than $18 million annually for the impoverished Liberian government, as much as 25 percent of the nation's foreign direct investment income revenue.
To ensure security on the merchantmen, Liberia has approved an agreement with Norwegian company Seagull to provide its security training package for commercial vessels flying its flag.
In July Norwegian Maritime Authority approved Seagull's new security training package, Marinelink Web site reported.
The company said Seagull's courses ensuring sailors on merchantmen are trained fully in maritime security matters and Seagull security material is fully compliant with the Manila amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (International Maritime Organization) STCW Convention and Code.
Under the latest STCW amendments, all mariners must have approved ship security training, varying according to their level of responsibility, receiving generic security awareness and familiarization training, while those with specific security related roles must have completed appropriate training for their assigned shipboard responsibilities.
Seagull's new Security Onboard training system offers three courses certified by Norwegian classification society Det Norsk Veritas through its SeaSkill program. Seagull's new security training courses will become available in September.
Seagull Senior Course Instructor Anders Brunvoll said: "Getting NMA approval is very important for us, as we have in the past issued Ship Security Officer certificates on behalf of NMA, the Norwegian flag state. With the new Security Onboard Training System we offer three courses and, with continued NMA backing, ship owners can be assured that certification through these courses will demonstrate the proficiency, as well as the competency, of their seafarers in security matters."