In February of 2014, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law published a white paper that concluded that sovereign states have broad authority under international law to regulate GHG emissions from vessels within their registry. However, many registries are structured such that the flag state has limited connection to or exercises limited control over registered vessels. For example, many flag states franchise their registries to private corporations that manage the registration of ships.
There are a number of such registries hosted by Pacific Island States, ranging from the RMI registry, currently the world's 2nd largest to Niue, the world’s newest and smallest independent registry. The role of such registries and the opportunities and challenges a decarbonizing shipping industry poses is not well understood or researched and will be a focus of the High-Level Policy Unit in the near future.
In 2014 we asked Sabin Center to prepare a generic paper setting out the background to such registries.
For more information, please refer to this document.