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Old 31-07-2011, 06:26   #1
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Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

Several people that I've talked with recently have mentioned interest in registering their boats in other countries. The reasons, to avoid general hostility toward Americans and also being targeted for robbery. The logic being that an older boat flying a Panamanian or Liberian flag would not be seen in the negative light in which some in some regions of the world view Americans. Also, in some places Americans are thought to be rich and the American flag to them announces that the boat is a plump target for robbery. In the Caribbean and some other places announces that the occupants of the vessel are tourists far from home, naive foreigners and easy targets for malicious acts. I have heard that some American cruisers fly a Canadian flag as a false flag.
Among other reasons for a flag of convenience would have to do with taxes or citzenship requirements for registry.
I have mixed thoughts and feelings on this subject. It is of curiosity to me and I think it a good topic for discussion here on this forum.
Should make for lively discussion and wild misinformation.
What are your thoughts and feelings about registering in a foreign country and flying a flag of convenience for whatever reason?
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Old 31-07-2011, 07:04   #2
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Re: Flag of convenience/open registry

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Originally Posted by vintageray View Post
The reasons, to avoid general hostility toward Americans and also being targeted for robbery.
I wouldn't do it for those reasons. As a tax dodge, yes.

Robbery: Everyone perceives American boats to be armed. That must be a deterrant.

General Hostility: Hmmmm some have had some adverse reactions in the Middle East. But thats about all and that was pretty low level, and similar to what everyone else cops.

Individuals with a bad attitude will have difficulties no matter what flag they fly. If you are a prick a Panamanian flag won't help.





Have any of you American flagged boats had serious trouble from the flag alone?


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Old 09-08-2011, 16:10   #3
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

"Money Flags"....which destroyed the Amerian Merchant Marine......cost $$$$$
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Old 11-08-2011, 06:22   #4
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

Actually I have been planning on doing it the other way. My catamaran was constructed here in the Philippines and I will likely never take it out of south east Asia. I was going to register it with the USCG so I didn't have to deal with the Philippine authorities and they would be less likely to mess with me. Even registered in the USA I was not planning on flying a USA flag, just a Philippine courtesy flag - is there some legal requirement that a private sailboat must fly a national flag?
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Old 11-08-2011, 06:39   #5
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

A saying here in the Caribbean is that when you put a Colombian or Venezuelan ensign on your boat, all the pirates will keep their distance. Reasoning is that rich Colombians/Venezuelans that are alive equal to extreme danger :-)

However, in all the years we're here, I have never seen a yacht actually doing this, so I assume it's just a story.

I know of 1 US flagged yacht that changed flags to get rid of "bugging the gringo" and he told us it worked very well. He went Dutch flagged (done in Curacao). It didn't really help because a Spanish cruiser/pirate killed him... R.I.P. Don .

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Old 11-08-2011, 17:24   #6
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

Or, you could fly the Texas flag as a deterrent... and dyslexic pirates might think you're from Chile?
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Old 11-08-2011, 18:26   #7
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

Your concern about hostility to Americans may be unfounded. I've certainly never experienced it in a cruising situation.

Pay particular attention to the excellent advice you've received from Markj, who happens not to be an American: if you are a prick, a Panamanian flag won't help.
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Old 22-08-2011, 10:30   #8
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

I've often wondered. Can you construct your own country identity, and fly the Joly Rodger as your ensign? I wonder what the USCG would have to say about that? (I hope they don't start shooting)
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Old 22-08-2011, 11:34   #9
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

My dos centavos: In US waters, the reaction would be something like, oh darn, another silly cutesy weekend boater, let's find an excuse to see if he's drunk. In international waters, the Jolly Roger would give the Coast Guard a great excuse for boarding practice. Sailing into a foreign port under the Jolly Roger -- uh, I believe that would be a really bad idea to test the patience and sense of humor of some foreign authorities against their zeal and desire for target practice.
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Old 22-08-2011, 11:45   #10
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

I have talked to an number of people who have considerable experience cruising the Pacific on this matter and they all agree (to some degree or another) I would be treated better with a Canadian flag than a US., a false flag can cause way more problems than it could avoid (besides being the son of a US Naval officer I am a stickler for flag protocol). I am probably going to end up officially registering my boat in Canada, I might even take up "permanent residence status" there too.
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Old 22-08-2011, 12:20   #11
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

Maritime law is very old and international, flag protocol is part of that, the flag of origin, courtesy flag, quarantine flag have just as much of a purpose now as they did 200 years ago.
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Old 22-08-2011, 12:26   #12
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Re: Flag of Convenience / Open Registry

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Originally Posted by TheManWhoSpoke View Post
I've often wondered. Can you construct your own country identity, and fly the Joly Rodger as your ensign? I wonder what the USCG would have to say about that? (I hope they don't start shooting)
My boat came with a Jolly Rodger, I never flew it, I actually gave it away to a land lubber as quickly as possible (the response I got was "This came off of a real boat").
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