Commercial maritime shipping

Merchant ship
Merchant ship © Suisse-Atlantique S.A.

Commercial maritime shipping under the Swiss flag is operated by Swiss companies. The flag state authority is the Swiss Maritime Navigation Office (SMNO).

The vessels of Switzerland's seagoing fleet are found in all of the world's seas. They are owned by Swiss private-sector firms and operated by Swiss shipping companies. In times of conflict or crisis, the federal government can requisition Swiss-flagged merchant ships to serve the country's economic needs.

The SMNO provides the following services for commercial maritime shipping:

  • Manages the implementation of national and international standards on Swiss seagoing vessels
  • Monitors compliance by ships, shipowners and shipping companies with national and international construction, security, equipment and environmental protection standards and with registration and labour laws
  • Licenses and accredits classification societies, recognised organisations and recruitment firms
  • Issues and renews maritime licences, certificates, proof of training and permits
  • Reports any unlawful acts committed on Swiss vessels, and rules on appeals against disciplinary action
  • Prepares Switzerland's ratification and accession procedures for international maritime conventions
  • Represents Switzerland in relevant international bodies
  • Participates in the enforcement of other countries' technical and trade-policy rules and regulations in maritime shipping
  • Assists Swiss vessels in dealing with foreign authorities