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ITALIAN SHIPOWNERS AND FLAGS OF CONVENIENCE
At the end of the Second World War, several shipping companies were either formed in Italy or were revived in order to take advantage of the contracts which national and international organisations were offering for the carriage of emigrants to faraway lands such as the Americas and Australia.
Several of these companies, such as those of the Costa family of Genoa and of Achille Lauro of Naples, registered their ships in Italian ports in order to take advantage of the funds available to national carriers. Other companies, however, set up offshore subsidiaries in, for instance, Panama, Switzerland, Great Britain and the United States, thus giving rise to the phenomenon of the “flags of convenience” (or, in Italian, “bandiere ombra” – “shadow flags”) and avoiding the operational regulations and fiscal impositions of their native country.
This was the case with Nicolò Rizzi, one of the many shipowners who came originally from the Adriatic island of Lussino. Also, the celebrated Cosulich family transferred their activities from Trieste (whose future was at that stage uncertain) to Genoa where, together with the Swedish Brostrőm family (whose many interests included the Swedish American Line) and the Greek shipowner Evgen Evgenides, they were involved in the formation of the Home Lines, managed from Genoa but legally – and therefore financially – based in Panama.
Some concerns adopted both policies. One such was the Società Italiana Trasporti Marittimi of Milan (the Sitmar Line of the Vlasov family who had fled as refugees from Odessa but had based themselves in Italy in the 1920s). That part of the Sitmar fleet which was in service from Italian ports was registered in Rome in order to benefit from the available state aid; other vessels, however, were placed with subsidiaries based in New York, such as the Alvion Steamship Corporation (whose ships flew the Panamanian flag) and Fairline Inc. (whose vessels were registered in Monrovia under the Liberian flag). The ships flying flags of convenience normally sailed from ports outside Italy, for example in England or Germany, and carried international migrants.
A poster published for the entry into service of the Fairsea on the Australian migrant route; she was managed by the Sitmar Line of Vlasov but she formally belonged to the Panama-based Alvion Steamship Corp.
Tracing the detailed history of the offshore companies is obviously made difficult by the impossibility of gaining access to their archives. However, some of the surviving principals or their heirs have been very helpful and much information can be obtained from the files of the newspaper Lloyd’s List and from confidential documents such as Lloyd’s Confidential Index, all of which are direct descendants of the ship register maintained by Edward Lloyd at his famous coffee house in the City of London at the end of the seventeenth century.