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A broad coalition of maritime and transportation unions has lined up in opposition to the establishment of a flag-of-convenience ship registry in the US Virgin Islands.

FOC registries—also called “open registries”—allow shipowners to maximize their profitability by avoiding the rules, regulations, tax obligations and manning requirements that attach to a national-flag fleet.

MM&P is a member of the coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department, the American Maritime Officers, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, the Marine Firemen’s Union, the Sailors Union of the Pacific and the Seafarers International Union.

The coalition calls an FOC registry in the US Virgin Islands “an exercise in labor arbitrage designed to generate registry fees and enrich foreign shipowners at the expense of American workers and America’s national interests” and “an affront to American mariners.”

It said the military security of the United States would be weakened by relying on foreign-owned, foreign-crewed vessels, noting that other industrialized countries that have established FOC registries have seen their national fleets hollowed out “to the point that they are no longer able to provide the requisite military security and logistical support to their flag nations.”

“The safety of American troops deployed overseas and the success of their mission must not be put in jeopardy by reliance on a flag-of-convenience open registry scheme that uses foreign-crewed vessels to deliver what our servicemen and women need to do their job,” the coalition said.

It has called on the Department of Defense, MARAD, the Biden Administration and Congress “to reject any suggestion that US Virgin Islands-flagged vessels be treated as if they were US-flagged and US-crewed for any purpose or for any program.”

The coalition also noted the lessons of the ongoing supply chain crisis, which demonstrate “that we as a country must begin to reverse the dangerous reliance we have on foreign sources for goods and shipping services.”

“Increasing America’s dependence on foreign-owned and foreign-manned vessels will exacerbate the current situation,” they added.

The coalition reiterated its ongoing commitment to work with the administration and Congress to achieve a more robust, commercially viable US-flag, US-crewed fleet that will continue to protect America’s economic, military and homeland security.