Of the four countries known to have vessels fraudulently registered for international trade when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) began considering the issue in 2015, Samoa has seen 17 vessels illegally using its flag so far this year.
In a letter to the IMO dated 7 June, Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa L.S. Malielegaoi, said that despite steps taken in February 2017 by the Samoan government to revoke the status of Ascent Naval (AN) as a recognised organisation authorised to issue the country’s flag certificates, there was evidence that the company, or one operating in its name, was still in business.
In addition to a website that still shows, as of 10 October, the company having offices in Thailand and India, AN has been issuing vessel licenses as recently as January 2018, supposedly with the government’s authorisation. Tuilaepa further confirmed to the IMO that Samoa’s official crest, and the title of its Ministry of Works, Transport, and Infrastructure (MWTI), have been forged in order to issue certifications.
The solution, Tuilaepa told the IMO, is that a Samoan flag certification provided to any overseas port, authority, government agency, or third party by a shipping company or crew must not be accepted as properly authorised.
Ports and government agencies “must instead be referred to MWTI for confirmation of their actual status,” he said.
In addition, if certification reportedly granted by AN dated after their registered status was revoked, on 3 February 2017, “it can automatically be considered as illegally granted by AN and therefore unauthorised by the Government of Samoa.”