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23 October 2019
Flying the Dutch flag has unfortunately become less popular with shipowners over the past 10 years. Although the exact reasons for this fall in popularity are unknown, the presumption that flying the Dutch flag is limited by the location of the vessel's owner may be a contributing factor.
Seagoing vessels are eligible for registration in the Netherlands and may fly the Dutch flag if:
Although on the face of it only European shipowners appear to be able to obtain a nationality certificate, the scope for flying the Dutch flag is actually much wider. This article outlines the possibilities for owners registered in the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Saint Pierre and Miquelon (among other places) to obtain a Dutch flag for their vessels without the need to have their headquarters or a secondary establishment in the Netherlands.
A seagoing vessel may be registered in the Netherlands and fly the Dutch flag only if it qualifies as a 'Dutch vessel' within the meaning of Article 311 of the Commercial Code. For registration in the Netherlands, the following criteria must be met:
Shipowners do not need to comply with requirements two, three and four themselves; instead, they may appoint a ship's manager in the Netherlands. This manager must also be established in the Netherlands (headquarters or a secondary establishment) and needs to meet requirements three and four. The manager is responsible for managing the vessel, which includes providing the government with relevant data to enable it to supervise the vessel.
Requirement one above is considerably broader than may be expected. In particular, the reference to companies and entities established in countries, islands or areas referred to in Articles 299(2) to (5) and (6)(c) of the EC Treaty is notable. The countries and geographic areas as referred to in Article 299(3) of the treaty are not limited to European territory and include:
Thus, an owner duly established in one of these countries, islands or geographic areas may also fly the Dutch flag on its vessels, provided that all other requirements of Article 311 of the Commercial Code are also met.
In addition to entry in the Dutch register, shipowners can opt to register their vessels in the Dutch bareboat charter register. Articles 2 and 3 of the Seagoing Ships under Bareboat Charter (Nationality) Act stipulate the requirements for registering a vessel in the Dutch bareboat charter register and for obtaining the Dutch flag in accordance with the Certificates of Registry Act. Under Article 5 of the Seagoing Ships under Bareboat Charter (Nationality) Act, a vessel will obtain Dutch nationality on registration in the bareboat registry, even if it has been entered into another registry.
Reference to Article 299 of the EC treaty in Article 311 of the Dutch Commercial Code means that vessels owned by owners established in the countries, islands or geographic areas included in Annex II of the EC treaty can fly the Dutch flag. Owners have the possibility to transfer vessels with a Dutch flag to entities in these countries, islands or geographic areas without the vessels losing their Dutch flag.
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