16 June 2023
This year, St Helena was represented by Mia Henry, Head of Maritime, at The Red Ensign Group Conference 2023, held from Monday 22 May to Thursday 25 May 2023 and hosted by the Cayman Islands.
The Red Ensign Group (REG) is the collective of British Shipping Registers. It is made up of the United Kingdom, and the Crown Dependencies and the UK Overseas Territories which operate shipping registers from their jurisdiction. Any ship registered in the UK, a Crown Dependency or an UK Overseas Territory is a ‘British ship’ and is entitled to fly the Red Ensign.
The agenda covered the overall performance of the REG, conventions and legislation, capacity building and succession planning to retain maritime skills and knowledge. And, importantly, a collective maritime strategy to raise the profile of the maritime sector.
Sessions were also held on the role and responsibilities of coastal states and addressed issues such as decarbonisation, pollution response and environmental concerns.
St Helena directly contributed to the Coastal State Forum on international obligations under the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, and initiated some discussion on future Marine Forecasting that will now give way to address issues collectively and share resources across its members.
There was also an opportunity for a bilateral meeting between SHG representative and MCA directors. During this the importance of making available funding to support SHGs goals and objectives, both long and short term, were raised as a key issue.
Under international maritime law, set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), every member state to the IMO must be audited. In 2021 the UK was audited, with a number of findings and recommendations identified, that apply directly and indirectly to the REG as a whole. To ensure that obligations are being met, the MCA continually assesses each Member of the REG by conducting proxy audits in line with those IMO requirements, in order to demonstrate overall compliance with international obligations. St Helena will be subject to a proxy audit at some point in 2024.
UK Maritime Minister Baroness Vere said:
“Over the past 34 years the Red Ensign Group (REG) has set itself apart by establishing rigorous safety measures, to protect seafarers and uphold the highest maritime standards on British flagged ships. I am thrilled that we have come together again to share our experience and practices, to ensure that the Red Ensign flag reflects the standards we are proud of. With the excellent work of the REG, we have built on our rich maritime history reinforcing the values that British flagged vessels stand for.”
Mia Henry, SHG Head of Maritime, commented:
“Coastal States are very much concerned with safety of navigation in our territorial waters. It was good to share our experiences and challenges. It is pleasing to know that there are areas that we could offer advice on, as well as take away, and where we are already implementing practices that others are still to adopt. With Ascension and Tristan Da Cunha also represented, the common denominator of the geographical isolation of our territories came across strongly.”
“The conference was well worth the extensive travel and thanks are extended to the MCA for the funding made available through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) Overseas Territories Governance Programme for St Helena’s attendance, and their on-going support and to the Cayman Islands for the warm welcome received. Thanks are also extended to colleagues on Island who assisted with conference preparation, and who will be involved with the upcoming proxy audit next year.”
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