The international trade union Nautilus International and the Swiss Shipowners’ Association are urging the Swiss government to take action in order to preserve the Swiss flag in shipping. They are rejecting a proposed draft framework agreement that they believe does not guarantee ships being registered under the Swiss flag. Currently, there are only 14 seagoing vessels flying the Swiss flag, and these remaining ships are expected to leave in the coming years. Losing the Swiss flag would have negative consequences for workers, as Swiss-flagged ships offer favorable working conditions and protection from various maritime threats.
The decline in the number of Swiss-flagged ships is due to the competitiveness of the Swiss flag decreasing over time. Shipping companies are now choosing to “flag” offshore with lower profit tax rates or register in flag states that offer more advantageous tonnage tax systems. Although there was an opportunity to curb this through a minimum tax on corporate profits, shipping was excluded due to pressure from shipping associations and certain states.
The government is currently planning a tonnage tax, but Nautilus and the Swiss Shipowners’ Association oppose the current draft because it does not require shipping companies to register under the Swiss flag when claiming the tax. They emphasize the need to prevent the commodity trading industry from exploiting the tonnage tax for significant profits, and they will approve the tax only if there is a clear separation between shipping and raw materials trading. Nautilus remains in contact with experts and NGOs to advocate for more attractive framework conditions for shipping companies in Switzerland.