Since 30 June, vessels flying the Portuguese flag (from the conventional registry and from MAR) are accepted for the firts time in the US Coast Guard's Qualship 21 Index (USCG). The inclusion of Portuguese flag vessels, like all other vessels, is valid for one year, after which it will be re-evaluated. As we have learned, there is an expectation that in June 2018 Portuguese vessels will be included again in this index.

Qualship 21 is an index that attests to the compliance of ships with various international quality and safety requirements, similar to Paris MoU and Tokyo MoU, and is valid for US ports. A qualification by Qualship 21, however, is an acknowledgment of the quality of the flags that obtain it and makes their vessels less subject to inspections by the national authorities under Port State Control.

Integrating this index, following an assessment by the EUU on the problem identification ratio on ships and the number of vessels inspected, Portugal has entered a list which includes the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Kingdom, Belgium, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Denmark, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Marshall Islands, Philippines, South Korea and Switzerland.

Consequently, this means that Portuguese-flagged vessels were considered more reliable than ships from countries with numerous and even competing fleets, such as Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Liberia or Panama, among others. And by that, it is a factor of prestige for the countries' indexes, which is a factor of attraction for other ships.

In the Portuguese case, the evolution of the MAR has contributed greatly to this inclusion, with hundreds of registered ships, since the national conventional register has only two ships. This is even suggested by the USCG, which refers to age and the quality of the tonnage of MAR vessels, which was able to attract ships previously registered with flags from countries outside the European Union.