Why P&O is not completely wedded to UK registry for Azura

//Why P&O is not completely wedded to UK registry for Azura

When Azura made her debut in the UK last week, some observers were surprised to see that the ship was registered in Southampton.
All the other ships in P&O’s fleet have the name Hamilton painted on their sterns, showing that they are registered in Bermuda. P&O’s brochure, and even the Press pack handed to journalists boarding Azura on Saturday, indicate that the ship would be registered in London.
Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle explained that the decision to have the ship registered in the UK was made for “quite complicated regulatory reasons” and that Southampton was chosen because it was Azura’s home port, and the company’s head office is in the city.
Although he did not say so publicly, I understand that the tax benefits to the company arising from UK registration outweighed the advantages of flying what is commonly known as a flag of convenience.
Most merchant vessels, including cruise ships, sail under these flags in order to cut operating costs and reduce onerous regulations. Most of the Carnival fleet – P&O’s parent company – are registered in Panama. Celebrity, whose newest ship Celebrity Eclipse will be named in Southampton on April 24, chooses Malta.
P&O appear to have chosen the UK for Azura in order to take advantage of something called Tonnage Tax, which reduces Corporation Tax liabilities.
Where a ship is registered is of little significance to the majority of passengers – the first of whom will be setting out on Azura’s maiden voyage later today.
There is, however, one notable disadvantage as a result of UK registry; the ship’s captain is not permitted to conduct marriage ceremonies at sea – and those weddings can be big business.
During 2009, a total of 1,064 couples got married on P&O and Princess ships. With wedding packages starting at about £750 (on top of the cruise fare) and another £250 or so for the licence, that’s a significant amount of revenue.
On one day last December when I was on board Azura’s sister ship Ventura in the Caribbean, Commodore Stephen Burgoine performed three wedding ceremonies. Dingle told me of a day when he was on board one of the fleet’s ships when there were seven weddings, one of which involved 100 guests.
Captain Keith Dowds, who has conducted numerous weddings on Ventura, will have to be content with hosting renewal of vows ceremonies in Azura’s Ivory Suite.
There are hopes that UK legislation may eventually change to permit captains to conduct civil ceremonies, but no-one expects that to be a government priority, whoever wins the election on May 6.
So while there may have been good commercial reasons for registering Azura in the UK now, there is also a good chance that the flag will be changed some time in the future.
And P&O confirmed that Adonia, which joins the fleet next year, will not be UK-registered.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:29+00:00 12 April 2010|Cruise News|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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