Edited by Peter Dauvergne
Chapter 5: Globalization and Environmental Protection on the High Seas
Elizabeth R. DeSombre As a report from the Australian Parliament noted, ‘it is a world of too many ships that are over aged and under maintained chasing too little freight for too little return’ (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 1992: x). Most of these ships, as measured by number or by weight, are now registered in what are called ‘ﬂags of convenience’ (FOCs) or open registries. This trend challenges the ability or willingness of states to regulate activity undertaken by their nationals in a way that epitomizes the concerns that many express about globalization generally. Ocean shipping thus serves as the quintessential example of a globalized industry; it is both an industry that has led many of the globalization trends that anyone studying this issue would recognize and an area in which the standard economic globalization that scholars and activists address more broadly is in fact carried out, since so much of world trade is conducted via ships on the oceans. Ninety-ﬁve per cent of goods traded internationally as measured by weight, and two-thirds as measured by value, are transported on the oceans by ships (Steinberg, 2001: 14), most of which ﬂy ﬂags of convenience. States compete for ship registrations by intentionally keeping taxes and fees low and by having lax, or poorly enforced, environmental, safety and labour standards; ship owners respond by ﬂying these convenient ﬂags in an effort to compete internationally through lower operating costs. This ability to choose a level of international regulation by choosing...
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