Pollution Prevention and Safety Top Priority on Bahamian Ships

The front-page article "When Choosing Flags, Many Ship Fleets Seek Lax Rules, Low Wages," April 24, leads readers to believe that shipowners seek out flags of open registry solely to avoid meeting prevailing safety standards and to obtain low-cost, inexperienced seafarers.

On the contrary, most open-registry ships are owned by reputable companies where ship safety and pollution prevention are top priorities. Responsible fleet managers cannot jeopardize corporate interests by operating or chartering substandard ships with poorly trained officers and crews.

Worldwide, ships are critically inspected by owners, flag states, classification societies, and representatives of port states where the ships trade. Oil companies chartering tankers to supplement owned tonnage routinely inspect tankers operated by others to avoid chartering substandard tonnage.

The International Transport Workers Federation has long castigated owners of so-called "flag of convenience" ships. It resents the loss of maritime jobs to developing countries.

Despite all precautions, there are substandard ships and marginal operators, just as there are scofflaws in society. The International Maritime Organization and responsible shipowners seek to identify and eliminate them.

The Bahamas, a flag of open registry, administers its registration and fleet-surveillance programs from its London office near the United States Embassy. It is a politically stable sovereign nation with a quality fleet operated by reputable owners.

Thomas S. Wyman

Palo Alto, Calif.

Director, Bahamas Maritime Authority

Repealing gas tax is a bad idea

Regarding the opinion-page article "Gas-Tax Cut: Running on Fumes," May 20: Bob Dole and others who believe in repealing the 4.3 cents-per-gallon gas tax are attempting to create a disheartening situation for younger Americans. Bob Dole has said several times that this election is about the future. Repealing the gas tax and proposing other tax cuts as an election-year strategy will perpetuate the already destructive path that our national debt is creating for younger generations.

Mr. Dole, Newt Gingrich, and the freshmen Republican majority talked of the importance of balancing the budget last year yet they have all sacrificed these beliefs for a few votes in November. The future of this country needs to be taken more seriously by our leaders. There is too much at stake.

Brad Stevens

Concord, N.H.

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