The shipping industry is very dynamic and continues to grow and show great resilience. From car carriers to tankers, countries all over the world have continued to increase the value of their merchant fleet every year. Ship ownership should not be confused with Flag Of Convenience (FOC). FOC is a business practice whereby a ship’s owners register a merchant ship in a ship register of a country other than that of the ship’s owners, and the ship flies the civil ensign of that country, called the flag state. A registry which does not have a nationality or residency requirement for ship registration is often described as an open registry.
Each merchant ship is required by international law to be registered in a registry created by a country, and a ship is subject to the laws of that country, which are used also if the ship is involved in a case under admiralty law. A ship’s owners may elect to register a ship in a foreign country which enables it to avoid the regulations of the owners’ country which may, for example, have stricter safety standards. They may also select a jurisdiction to reduce operating costs, avoiding higher taxes in the owners’ country and bypassing laws that protect the wages and working conditions of mariners.
Here are the top 10 largest shipowning nations in the world.