Recently SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) strongly protested against Panama’s announcement it would revoke its flag from migrant rescue ship “Aquarius”. The NGO’s lambasted Italy for pressuring Panama into this move which dealt a major blow to humanitarian missions off Europe’s southern coasts. Panama said it was revoking its flag owing to non-respect of international legal procedures relating to migrant rescues in the Mediterranean. Not only Panama hosts a number of vessels owned by NGO’s with an idealistic goal. Also, the Dutch flag is home to a number of organisations with certain idealistic goals. On 26 September 2018 the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure issued a letter to the Dutch House of Parliament informing that the Ministry would with immediate effect change the rules allowing registration of sea-going vessels in the Dutch Ship Registry as a pleasure craft.

The change of policy by the Ministry will have as a consequence that vessels owned by NGO’s with an idealistic purpose must comply with the relevant safety and crew legislation based on the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974 and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). For the moment the policy will only affect new applications for registration. The Minister has announced that she will contact organisations owning vessels which are already registered as a pleasure craft under the Dutch flag to discuss how these organisations can also start complying with the relevant international legislation.