Mongolia’s Fleet

by Nathan Hamm on 7/2/2004 · 3 comments

File this under “Who knew?” Mongolia not only has a Maritime Administration, but it also has a brisk business in ship registration.

In a one-room office, with whirring computers, a fax machine at the ready and model ships for décor, two civil servants oversee the Mongolia Ship Registry, an international service that offers quite competitive fees and no restrictions on the ownership of any ship.

Mongolia, the world’s largest landlocked country, with its capital almost 1,000 miles from an ocean beach, is the latest entry in the business of flags of convenience. With Mongolia’s red, yellow and blue colors now flying on 260 ships at sea, this unlikely venture is part business, part comedy and part international intrigue.

“We earned the treasury about $200,000 last year,” Bazarragchaa Altan-Od, head of the Maritime Administration, said, slightly tense for his first interview with the world press. “We have 20 to 30 new registrations every month. The number is increasing.”

With new international shipping security rules going into effect on July 1, some shippers may see the newest flag of convenience as one that does not yet set off alarm bells.

But wait, the story gets even more interesting.

In the 1980’s, a Mongolian university student known only as Ganbaatar won a scholarship to study fish farming in the Soviet Union. But the state functionary filling out his application put down the course code as 1012, instead of 1013. As he later told Robert Stern, producer of a documentary on the Mongolian Navy, that bureaucratic error detoured him from fish farming to deep-sea fishing.

Upon graduation, he was sent to work with the seven-man Mongolian Navy, which patrolled the nation’s largest lake, Hovsgol. The lone ship, a tug boat, had been hauled in parts across the steppes, assembled on a beach and launched in 1938.

After the collapse of Communism here in 1990, Ganbaatar wrote Mongolia’s new maritime law, which took effect in 1999.

The registry opened for business in February, 2003. Perhaps to play down any negative connotations of being landlocked, the glossy color brochure of the Mongolia Ship Registry shows Mongolia surrounded on three sides by a light blue blob that, on closer inspection, turns out to be China.

Read the whole thing, there’s a North Korea angle and a dream of Mongolia’s own maritime fleet.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

praktike July 3, 2004 at 8:24 pm

Speaking of weird goings-on in Mongolia, get a load of this guy!

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