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.