§ Mr. Carmichael
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 9 February 2004,Official Report, column 1178W, on foreign ships, whether European Union guidelines prevent his Department from having a bias in favour of chartering ships flying the shipping flags of European Union member states rather than those of non-EU countries; and what changes were made to the process for chartering freight-carrying commercial ships following his Department's review in 2003. 
§ Mr. Ingram
MOD procurement, which reflects the Public Procurement Regulations that have their origins in the 1972 European Communities Act, is governed by the fundamental principle that there should be equal opportunity to tender for work without discrimination on the grounds of nationality. Charter of commercial shipping is, therefore, arranged using a panel of commercial shipping brokers on the global market.
The 2003 internal Defence Transport and Movements Agency review of charter arrangements for freight-carrying commercial ships led to the introduction of a Safety Management System (SMS) incorporating a greater risk-based process. The SMS has been approved by the MOD Ship Safety Management Board. The comprehensive assessment of suitability for charter covers: the flag, as per the Paris Memorandum of Understanding; the ship's age; port state inspection record; classification society; nationality of owners/operators; Marine Superintendent's assessment; and previous record of MOD usage.