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Compliance with flag State requirements

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Compliance with flag State requirements

This Directive aims at ensuring that Member States of the European Union fulfil their responsibilities as flag States more effectively and more consistently. Furthermore, it aims to improve maritime safety and prevent pollution from ships flying the flag of a Member State.


Directive 2009/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on compliance with flag State requirements.


This Directive establishes a legal framework to improve the performance of Member States as flag States.


This Directive shall apply to the administration * of the Member State whose flag the ship is flying *.

Authorisation for ships flying the flag of a Member State to operate

Before allowing a ship authorised to fly their flag to operate, Member States shall check that the ship complies with international rules and regulations in this domain. They shall, in particular, check the ship's safety records. If necessary, the previous flag State may be consulted if the ship still has outstanding deficiencies or safety issues. In this case, the Member State concerned should promptly provide the detailed information that has been requested.

Detention of a ship flying the flag of a Member State

If a ship flying the flag of the Member State concerned has been detained by a port State, the administration shall oversee the ship being brought into compliance with the relevant International Maritime Organization (IMO) Conventions.

Accompanying measures

Member States shall ensure that the following information is available and accessible at all times:

  • particulars of the ship (name, International Maritime Organization number, etc.);
  • dates of surveys (including additional and supplementary surveys) and audits;
  • identification of the recognised organisations * involved in the certification * and classification of the ship as well as the authority responsible for inspecting the ship pursuant to the provisions relating to port State control;
  • the outcome of the port State inspections and, if applicable, information on deficiencies and the detention of the ship, or any marine casualties;
  • data concerning all ships which no longer fly the flag of the Member State concerned.

Flag State auditing process

Member States shall ensure that their respective administrations are subject to an audit by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at a minimum frequency of every seven years. The results of the audit shall be made public in compliance with national legislation on confidentiality. This provision shall apply until a mandatory IMO scheme enters into force.

Quality management system and internal evaluation

By 17 June 2012, each Member State shall implement a quality management system for the operational parts of the flag State-related activities of its administration.

Member States which appear on the black list or which appear for two consecutive years on the grey list, as published in the last annual report of the Paris Memorandum, shall submit a report to the Commission on their performance as a flag State. This report must be sent to the Commission within four months after the publication of the Memorandum report. It must contain information on the reasons for detention of ships or their black or grey status.


As from 17 June 2012, the Commission shall submit a report on the application of this Directive to the European Parliament and to the Council every five years.

Committee procedure

The Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (COSS) shall assist the Commission.


This Directive meets the need for safer and more eco-friendly maritime transport. It is based on the legal framework developed at international level by the IMO in the field of maritime safety and the protection of the environment against maritime pollution.

Key terms of the Act

  • ship: a ship or craft flying the flag of a Member State falling within the scope of the relevant IMO Conventions, and for which a certificate is required;
  • administration: the competent authorities of the Member State whose flag the ship is flying;
  • recognised organisation: an organisation recognised in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 391/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on common rules and standards for ship inspection and survey organisations (recast);
  • certificates: statutory certificates issued in respect of the relevant IMO Conventions.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2009/21/EC



OJ L 131 of 28.5.2009

Last updated: 07.11.2009