Question about Shanghai and Tianjin ships

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koczownik
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Question about Shanghai and Tianjin ships

Post by koczownik » 20 Sep 2018 15:20

Both Shanghai and Tianjin were international shipping destinations, and had foreigners residing there, during 1920s-1930s. So I am wondering was it possible for non-Chinese citizens to register ships in either of these ports (and sail under ROC flag on the high seas) during this period? If yes, I am interested to know what requirements there were for foreign ship owners to register their vessels in these cities under Chinese flag-state.

jerryasher
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Re: Question about Shanghai and Tianjin ships

Post by jerryasher » 21 Sep 2018 05:31

A Quick response--in general the reverse is more likely--that is Chinese entrepreneur would be placing their investment under a foreign flag. This harkens to the late 1830's where Europeans explained western practices--that is the Europeans were not one, but Danish, English, French etc and that national counsels could call on their navies for protection. Once Hong Kong had been ceded, some enterprising persons found it beneficial to pick up the protection of the Royal Navy. Moreover having a flag of convenience ( including faking it and deceptions) could increase profits or at least reduce the risks of loss. By the time of the Sino-Japanese war, it was almost standard practice to reregister a ship from Chinese to foreign and counsels usually could find a way to make money on the transfer. Likewise during the Boxer event, many Chinese ships became foreign flagged. That being said between 1915 and 1920 around Macao and the Xi River I have found Portugese and British flagged Chinese owned ships reversing themselves and reregistering Chinese. There may be an exception but there was no Chinese owned and operator shipping company outside of East Asia--no ship larger than 6,000 tons was completed in China prior to 1915. French counsels sold the French flag to Chinese shipowners on the Top and Upper Yangzi around 1918-1923--which demolishes the non Chinese claim that they were but innocent bystanders during these early 20th century civil wars. Finally, the proposal to utilized the seized German and Austro-Hungarian ships and begin a Chinese overseas shipping company in 1917 was thwarted by the allies--Japan, Great Britain and the United States wanting the ships to be under their management. The Norwegians may have a different history as some of their entrepreneurs had ten of more (guess) ships 2,000 to 4,000 tons build in Shanghai, after 1915.

koczownik
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Re: Question about Shanghai and Tianjin ships

Post by koczownik » 24 Sep 2018 13:28

jerryasher wrote:
21 Sep 2018 05:31
Moreover having a flag of convenience ( including faking it and deceptions) could increase profits
This is actually why I was thinking about foreigners registering their ships in China. Chinese maritime labour was comparatively cheap during the interwar years, and if Chinese safety regulations were laxer than certain western states I can definitely see why someone might want to register their ship under an ROC flag. This is one of the reasons American ship owners started flagging their vessels in Panama during that period; they could hire sailors on a lower wage scale than the one in the US, avoid safety regulations in place under the Seamen's Act of 1915, and dodge the requirement under this Act for 75% of crew to speak the same language as officers.

It would in theory make sense for foreigners to register ships in a country like the ROC for above reasons, so I'm looking for historical evidence of this.

jerryasher
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Re: Question about Shanghai and Tianjin ships

Post by jerryasher » 25 Sep 2018 05:22

Good luck...Chinese seaman were a very important sector and factor in shipping, almost all the major and I suspect minor British firms trading in East Asia had substantial numbers of Chinese employed in their deck crews, but they were not paid equally. Keep in mind, colonial and racial attitudes as well as economic interests. In that regard, regardless of nationality, most European firms utilized Chinese Labor without having to fly the Chinese flag. Indeed promoting the Chinese as equals was not in the interest of shipping companies. Keep in mind that there were segregated 1st and 2nd class European and Chinese accommodations. May I suggest one more idea, Great Britain really did rule the waves in international law and military prowess. Therefore even with the outbreak of war between the European countries, she would not have let slide a German owned ship, flying the Chinese flag sail as a neutral. In late 1917, she stopped a Chinese/Danish radio contract because she felt it was a cover for a German company. Please let me know if you do come across what you are researching.

koczownik
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Re: Question about Shanghai and Tianjin ships

Post by koczownik » 25 Sep 2018 11:47

Maybe I didn't phrase my post correctly, I am not only asking about European colonial nations. Of course they could draw as much cheap foreign labour from their colonies as they pleased. But, according to "Rough Waters: Sovereignty and the American Merchant Flag" by Rodney Carisle, even your British-flagged ships were known to be transferred to other flag states during this period. For example, in 1928-31, the US-run United Fruit Company transferred thirteen ships from British registry to Panamanian. The book "Flag State Responsibility: Historical Development and Contemporary Issues" by John N. K. Mansell also says that over 100 European ships previously registered in Spain, United Kingdom, Greece, and Norway were re-flagged to Panama during the 1930s. Mansell says it is believed that one of the reasons for the transfer of these vessels was to gain a neutral flag state. As I said in my previous post, the interwar era was really the growth of the modern practice of flags of convenience.

I don't know if China had the same enticing open registry as Panama did during that period, this is why I asked. I will post here if I find anything about China used as a foreign flag state, and I hope anyone with information will post it here for us to read.

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