What does a responsible flag state do?

A ship is like a floating village and the ocean has no borders. So, what rules and regulations are there to follow?


Shipping is an international industry, and the flag of a vessel shows where in the world it is registered, which is known as a flag state. The flag and port name can be seen on the stern of the ship.

The Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration

You could say that a ship is a tiny piece of the country where that ship is registered. The rules and regulations of that country apply on the ship, no matter where in the world the ship is.

However, a ship is not a piece of land. It performs a duty and carries out work such as carrying cargo, dredging, fishing, moving passengers, drilling, surveying, etc. To ensure safe and efficient operations onboard, ships must be self-reliant – they must be prepared for any situation whether at dock or in the middle of the ocean. This means that seafarers must be properly trained and the vessel must be properly supplied at all times. Some of the resources that they must be supplied with include:

  • Fuel and oil bunkers
  • A workshop with spares and tools for repairs and maintenance
  • Food storage and galley
  • Refrigeration systems
  • Engines and generators to supply electricity and propulsion
  • System to make freshwater to drink
  • Garbage disposal
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Lifeboats and survival equipment
  • Communication equipment
  • Rockets and other signaling equipment in case of emergency
  • Equipment needed for safe navigation (radar, charts, electronic charts, meteorological instruments, GPS, etc.)


Due to all of the environmental regulations and the carriage of resources, there are also maritime rules and regulations which apply to ships. These maritime rules and regulations ensure that ships do not inflict harm on the environment, they ensure that ships do not cause harm to themselves, and they ensure that ships provide a safe environment for people on board.

The framework for maritime regulations are set by IMO – the International Maritime Organization – which is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. IMO’s work supports the UN sustainable development goals.

IMO was established to adopt legislation and Governments are responsible for implementing it. When a Government accepts an IMO Convention, it agrees to make it a part of its own national law and to enforce it just like any other law. When the legislation is adopted by the government of the flagstate, these rules and regulations apply on the ship. For more information about IMO, click here.

This article is shared by courtesy of the Northeast Maritime Institute – which began in 1981 as a New England branch of the Tidewater School of Navigation based in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1995, Eric and Angela Dawicki assumed ownership and renamed it Northeast Maritime Institute (NMI).

NMI reorganized itself into a full-service maritime education and training institution meeting  U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine exam and training requirements and became the first training institution in the United States to provide training under the International Convention on Standards of Training and Certification for Watchkeepers and Seafarers (STCW).

For more educational articles, click here. 



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