This sentence in the Oxford Online Dictionary confuses me:

the flagging out of much of the fleet to flags of convenience

Even with the definition that flag means here "Register (a vessel) in a specific country, under whose flag it then sails.", the clause doesn't make sense. What does it mean? And is it a clause or a phrase?


In this context, a "flag of convenience" means a flag that offers benefits of some kind.

Let's say a ship was built in Argentina, is owned by a ship owner in Bolivia, is staffed with a crew from Chile, and is normally docked in Denmark. I'm no maritime law expert, so I'm not sure which flag would fly over a ship like that. But I do know that a "flag of convenience" might be Ecuador, or France, or Greece. That is, there may be a way to register the ship in one of those nations and derive some sort of benefit.

So, if there were a whole fleet of such ships, and I were walking along the docks, I might ask:

"How come I don't see any Bolivian flags? Doesn't the owner of this fleet live in Bolivia?"

And you might answer:

"He does, but he prefers to flag out much of the fleet to flags of convenience. He pays a lot less tariffs and taxes that way."

As you guessed, it's not a full sentence, but a phrase that could be found in a longer sentence.

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