The historical development of tonnage, ship registration, classification societies and national and international law for flag State responsibility is recounted, along with the large increase in numbers of non-traditional flag States and classification societies over the past fifty years. The Law of the Sea Convention provides for a State to grant its nationality to ships, for those ships to be surveyed before registration, and for a flag State to effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag. A State has the sovereign right to determine conditions for grant of its nationality and this can lead to derogation of flag State responsibility with implications for safety of ships. These issues are analysed and remedies proposed for effective flag State implementation of mandatory instruments.

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