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A spat has arisen in the US over ‘foreign’ companies working for the US government. One Long Island-based shipping company wants the rules tightened, so that companies with foreign parents – think Maersk Line Ltd – are no longer eligible to ship military cargo. It’s a problematic stance. Are there sufficient numbers of qualified wholly US-owned lines to do the job? Are US companies, with US flagged ships and US mariners, really not acceptable if some shares are held abroad? And will companies such as Maersk Line accept this potential loss of multi-million dollar contracts without a fight?

Experience suggests not. Maersk Line has had a couple of battles over the tender process for government contracts recently – and has won the latest round, according to a source. It seems unlikely that a lone shipowner, trying to get two more of his ships registered for the scheme, will manage to change the law on this. But it could mark the beginnings of a tough battle.