The Reflag Merry-Go-Round

The reflag merry-go-round is when shipping companies with a U.S. flag division takes a ship that has suffered poor or lack of maintenance and reflags it U.S. Once the U.S. crews get the ship back up to standards the company then re-flags it foreign.

From the engineers point of view it seems that the U.S. crew that worked to get the first ship back in shape then have to start over with another ship flagged in from foreign.

Heard lots of anecdotes about this , mostly from the engineers. Anyone have any experience with this?


Keeps me with a job though :+1:


I know of stories that are in reverse, foreign flag entering US, and the US crew screw it up.

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Does the ship then get flagged out foreign?

Nope. Stayed in US.

In that case it’s just the story of a ship’s crew screwing things up. Heard that story many times.


Didn’t you used to work on ships that was owned by “shipping companies with a U.S. flag division” that took older RoRo/PCTCs from their foreign fleet and reflag them to US flag?
If so, you shouldn’t need to ask others. What was your experience??

I don’t have any experience with the merry-go-round.

Of the four PCC/PCTC I was on; one was new when the company took delivery and the other three were not very old and in good condition.

When the company did have a ship flagged out it was replaced with a newer, larger ship.

There was a certain Norwegian ship owner that used to do this.

Isn’t that the way MSP is supposed to work? I read in the AMO paper ARC just reflagged a few ships and flagged out the old ones. Rumor is a couple of them are going to MARAD? Not sure on the last.

Yes, that’s the expected process which was what I was describing in the post you responded to.

The question in the OP is wrt the practice of flagging ships into U.S. flag and then relatively quickly out again. Far quicker than the normal practice.

Yes ARC/Wilhelmsen has just re-flagged the Tiger (Blt. 2011) and Tomar (Blt. 2008) to US-flag:

They have also sold two older vessels; M/V Freedom (ex.Takamine, blt 1997) and M/V Honour (ex.Takasago, blt. 1996) to MARAD:

So that proves what K.C. said about his former employer, but is there any facts to show that SOME greedy foreign shipowners are using hardworking US seafarers to “fix their rundown ships, then flag out again”?

PS> Wouldn’t it be cheaper to send the ships to a “highly subsidized” shipyard where they could get repaired quicker.

PPS>Where the work is performed by unskilled forced labourers, without safety and environmental rules. (Which is what is holding back US shipyards from competing, according to popular belief. (Sarcasm)

7 posts were split to a new topic: Thread Clean-up

You are entitled to your biased opinion bugge, but I have been part of several re-flags and each time it is quite clear that engineering repairs have been woefully lacking. Everything looks pretty and things are shoestringed together mechanically, but once we get into taking things apart and finding that the spare parts were all used and then re-wrapped in original packaging, we get the real story. Every time it is the same story.

At least in my experience.

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Did the ships get re-flagged back to foreign once you had fixed them??
If so, you got any vessel names to show so it can be researched?

Looks like a ship on the reflag merry-go-round would be flagged into U.S. and out again in about 3 years.

Don’t know the reason why this is done but by all accounts getting the ship into satisfactory condition is a long-term project for the crew and is done while the ship remains in full operational status.

I found a a ship that has change back and forth to US flag a couple of times.
Whether the changes has been to take advantage of US crews to “fix 'er up”, or due to market forces is of course not known.
She has been in the Hoegh fleet all the time, but under different names, flags and “brands”.
Built in Korea as Alliance New York, intended for US flag, but probably never sailed under that name and flag.
Sailed as Prestige New York under US flag for 4 years.
Now registered in Norway (NIS), with home port Oslo.:

Why go through the reflagging process twice? If an owner feels their vessel is in need or repair just repair it? Changing flags feels like an unnecessary step and cost. The flag on the stern does not prevent a responsible owner from maintaining their vessels nor hiring a crew that will do so.


What difference does it make.? A job is a job is a job. Has any ever sailed on a ‘rust bucket’ that has been US flag its whole life? Instead of bitching about reflagging, you ought to be promoting reflagging. They are certainly not building new US flag (none coastwise) in the USA.

Obviously those greedy foreign Shipowners/Managers wants to take advantage of the superior skills and hard work performed by US crews. :innocent:

Actually the ship management philosophy has changed from large crews performing repairs and maintenance while underway and in port, to small crews (barely) sufficient for operational requirements.
This is reflected in the Minimum Safe Manning requirement approved by the various Flag State Authorities (incl. USCG) and IMO.

There is nothing in the rule book saying you can’t have a bigger crew on board to carry out repairs and maintenance, which is a quite common practice. (Usually “riding crews” for specific tasks)