Editorial: hoist Estonian flag in mast of every vessel? Never!

Kaubalaev.

PHOTO: SCANPIX

Maritime matters do matter for Estonia. Even so, expecting Estonia to favour the well-paid sailors by, for instance, having them treated in our excellent hospitals without paying taxes is just not fair towards other Estonian taxpayers.

Sailors’ trade union(s) ought not to fight for their employer, to make Estonia a convenience flag country. Lion’s share of Estonian citizens bear social tax load according to solidarity – people fit to work and well-paid foot the bill for children and pensioners alike. The principle would no longer work while we’d be offering some areas of the economy options to avoid taxes, be it for the reason of these be more important – as if.

On the sea, people are paid very well, as compared to Estonian average. Should all the rest of Estonia’s taxpayers stand as one, covering education for sailors’ kids, their parents’ pension and treatment, or whatever the sailor himself would been, while aware that the ship crew trade unions are fighting for the Estonian community not to have to pay taxes? What, then, would the rest of Estonia get for being a proud flag carrier? Big bills for banner pride? Choice of flag country does impact the taxed paid by ship owner; however, clearly, income of most ships in the world actually comes not from flag-of-convenience-countries... from Liberia, say. Also, the crews are not from these countries and the children of the sailors attend schools for which flesh-and-blood taxpayers pay for money they have earned.

It is often harped that one job at sea creates three on shore. Sure, transport does have an impact on more local economic activity, and vice versa. The issue here is, however, whether being the flag state has any impact on real economy. Let’s ask: should Silja Europa sail under panama flag – would extra jobs be created in Panama? Of course not. Jobs on shore are still where the real economic activity lies i.e. in the given case at Baltic Sea shores – if not for Tallinn and Helsinki, who would sail the Gulf of Finland.

Could Estonia become a convenience flag within EU? Of six German ships, five are registered outside EU etc. The idea being that due to its «backward» rules, European nations have let the vessels of their citizens and companies go under Third World flags with small requirements. Should somebody be able to come up with a model hoe Estonia could compete with Liberia and panama, in the issue, let him come forth.

The talk that we could indeed do business if we had lighter tax load than other companies and people, cannot be taken seriously. If Estonian flag means not that owner and crew actually participate in covering costs of Estonian society, do we then need the vessel to hoist our flags – at any cost?

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