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Law of Flag in Admiralty Actions

In a maritime case, the law of the flag-state must prevail in a choice of law inquiry unless some heavy counterweight appears.  The law of a flag of convenience state is not entitled to the same conclusive effect as that of a “legitimate” flag state.[i]

Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention on the High Seas provide that a ship has the nationality of the state whose flag it flies and that the ship is subject to that state’s jurisdiction.  Each state has the responsibility of fixing the conditions for the right to fly its flag.  The state must effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.  Article 6 provides that a ship may sail under the flag of only one state and, that it is generally subject to that state’s exclusive jurisdiction.[ii]

The Convention on the High Seas of 1959, art. 6(2), 13 U.S.T. 2312, T.I.A.S. No. 5200, provides that a ship which sails under the flags of two or more states, may not claim any of the nationalities, and may be assimilated to a ship without nationality.[iii]

[i] Pandazopoulos v. Universal Cruise Line, Inc., 365 F. Supp. 208 (S.D.N.Y. 1973)

[ii] United States v. Pinto-Mejia, 720 F.2d 248 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1983)

[iii] United States v. Rosero, 42 F.3d 166 (3d Cir. V.I. 1994)

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