Evergreen Marine Corp (長榮海運) confirmed yesterday that it would change the registration of 11 of its container ships from Britain to Singapore if Britain changes its tonnage tax rules.
“If it is implemented, we will let our 11 ships which fly the UK flag to register in Singapore,” an Evergreen Marine press officer said.
“But our operation in the UK will not change,” she said. “Evergreen’s subsidiary, Evergreen Marine UK, and our shipping agent in the UK will continue their operations as before.”
Chang Jung-fa (張榮發) — chairman of Evergreen Marine — one of the world’s leading container shipping lines — protested the proposed change to Britain’s tonnage tax regulations in an interview on Friday with the Lloyd’s List shipping journal in London and threatened to switch his container ships’ registration.
Plans to have dozens of other ships fly the British flag in the next few years would also be shelved, he said.
Evergreen has 176 container ships, of which 102 are self-owned.
The French line CMA CGM has already stopped transferring ships to British registration because of uncertainty about future rules, Lloyd’s List said.
The move came after Britain’s Treasury proposed tax amendments that included taxing British inland transport separately rather than including it in a door-to-door freight rate, the publication said. However, the proposal, along with others, was withdrawn as the EU reviews tonnage taxes across the bloc.
Industry observers have warned that the tax changes could threaten Britain’s status as a leading shipping nation and could result in the loss of thousands of British jobs.