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Belgium: Flag regulations for ships

Last modified: 2013-12-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: inland navigation | law |
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Sailing again under the Belgian flag

Quoting the website of the KBRV (Koninklijke Belgische Redersvereniging/ Union Royale des Armateurs belges / Royal Belgian Shipowners' Association, a non-profit organization based in Antwerp):

From the Chairman's Preface (file no longer online):

On 15th July 2002, the Parliament passed the final measures needed to enable the Belgian fleet to sail once again under the Belgian flag. On 2nd August, the Senate in turn added its approval.
These decisions were the culmination of three years of intense collaboration between the Government and the private sector, to which the opposition also made an important contribution.
Although the requirements under Belgian law were completed in 2002, the European Commission did not give the go-ahead until March 2003 with the effect that the Belgian fleet was not actually able to start sailing under the Belgian flag until 2003.
The new legislation, referred to above, also guarantees that all crew on board vessels flying the Belgian flag are more than honestly remunerated and enjoy full social security cover. This is not the case with a large number of other flags.
In the eighties we were unable to set up a European maritime register due to the lack of social and fiscal harmonisation between the various Member States. We still do not have this harmonisation but Europe clearly needs a uniform maritime shipping policy. Mrs Loyola de Palacio, the European Transport Commissioner, has already spoken about this on a number of occasions. This is an area where we would like to take the initiative in the Belgian and Luxembourg context or even at Benelux level. The first preparatory interviews have already begun. Serious ship-owners always do well on a level playing field.
If the Member States of the Union, who control almost 45% of the world fleet, took their respective fleets back under their own national flags, the authorities would inherit the technical quality of the vessels and the working conditions on board. By then imposing strict rules at international level, in casu at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), on vessels wishing to sail along our coasts or drop anchor in our ports we would be making a fundamental contribution to shipping safety and quality. The result of such action would be the disappearance from the seas of the shady ship-owners that are damaging our interests through unfair competition.
To end with, I would like to thank all the politicians, private individuals, officials and trade union partners who have made such efforts to get our fleet back under the Belgian flag, so that it can once again make a full contribution to the growth of the Belgian economy. Our young fleet, which is equipped with the latest technologies, commanded by officers from our own Maritime Academy, is the best ambassador Belgium could possibly have overseas!

In the not so distant past, and mainly for financial (fiscal) reasons, Belgian shipowners preferred "flagging out" their ships. Luxembourg was an important benificiary.

Jan Mertens, 26 November 2003

Use of regional flags in inland navigation

The following Decrees concerning navigation in Flanders were published in the Belgian national gazette #91 on 21 March 2006.

Decree of the Ministry of the Flemish Community (in Dutch, p. 16287 et passim; in French, p. 16290 et passim.

Ministry of the Flemish Community
18 November 2005. Decision of the Flemish Government to ratify the tariff regulations for the Brussels-Scheldt canal.

[...] Article 15, Paragraph 3
The following vessels are exempted from sailing dues, sailing permits, access fees and mooring fees:
1. military vessels, state vessels and region's vessels flying the national flag or the flag of a region;

Decree of the Ministry of the Flemish Community (in Dutch, p. 16294 et passim; in French, p. 16301 et passim.

Ministry of the Flemish Community
18 November 2005. Decision of the Flemish Government to determine the naval regulations for the Brussels-Scheldt canal.

[...] Article 14, Paragraph 2
The following sorts of vessels [who have right of way before first comers in the case of locks or movable bridges] are distinguished:
1. vessels transporting explosive and inflammatory substances and mixtures:
2. vessels belonging to the military or assisting the military in its duties and its transportation;
3. vessels belonging to the state, a region or a company flying the national flag or a region's flag;

It is logical to assume that the regions of Wallonia and Brussels-Capital have or may have similar laws or regulations.

Jan Mertens, 25 May 2006