What is meaning of Flag state?

The maritime administration of the country in which the ship is registered. This is the authority that is responsible for the issuance of statutory certificates  related to the operation of a ship, and is responsible for inspections to ensure  compliance with appropriate standards.

On the high seas, flag states hold sole jurisdiction over oceangoing vessels. In other words, ocean-going vessels on the high seas are required only to comply with globally agreed upon standards subject to enforcement by the flag state (Art. 217 UNCLOS). However, the majority of ships above 1.000 GT are registered under flags of convenience.

The flag state is required to “ensure compliance with international rules and standards” for vessels registered to it and to provide for “effective enforcement” no matter where violations occur (Art. 217). UNCLOS requires a “genuine link” between the flag state and the registered shipping company; as such, inter-national legal scholars debate whether states with “open registries,” such as Panama and Liberia, are permitted under UNCLOS.

In other words we can understand

Definitions of “flag  State”:-

“The State which has granted to a ship the right to sail under its flag”


“The State whose nationality the ship possesses”


“A State whose flag a ship flies and is entitled to fly”

  • A State may assume a number of roles in a maritime context dependent upon its location, function, sovereignty, boundaries, and relationship with vessels of another State.
  • The necessary elements of a flag State in international law are for a State to have granted ships its nationality through the registration process and to effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control over those ships in administrative, technical, and social matters, apart from where treaty provisions deem otherwise.
  • flag State clearly cannot exercise criminal jurisdiction through the “passive personality principle”, according to which, “aliens may be punished for acts committed abroad harmful to nationals of the forum” nor the “protective security principle”, according to which, “nearly all States assume jurisdiction over aliens for acts done abroad which affect the security of the state.


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