Fifty years ago it was always clear who owned any ships as their owners were usually well known companies.
However, there has been a change since then in that many cases a ship can be managed and operated by the shipping company, but may be owned by another concern. Such practices can be applied to any aspect of the shipping business, and also can refer to the use of yachts and private vessels.
Often companies are set up just to own one ship so it is not always clear who the beneficial owners are.
With the rise of the dark fleet and the sanctions compliance requirements being demanded of shipping, there is much concern now from government and security services in opening up the opaque links behind shipping’s beneficial ownership structures.
Over 20 years ago US intelligence was digging up links between a fleet of 20 ships and beneficial control led them to find out that the owner was Osama Bin Laden.
Insurers are not always aware of who the beneficial owners are of the ships they insure and surely this is an unsatisfactory situation. This scenario is not unusual. The ill-fated container vessel MSC Napoli was owned by a consortium of different owners, but was chartered by a ship management company to MSC, which operated the vessel in their colours. After her foundering in the Channel in early 2007, the main challenge was to find the owners of the vessel in order to conclude a full salvage contract, and this proved a complex task.
Surely regulations should be instituted to ensure a more open picture of ship ownerships.
Finally, I would like to wish all of our readers a very happy and prosperous New Year.