***”The opportunities for investment in The Bahamas are many, and the time for that investment is now.”* Prime Minister Perry G. Christie**

This past weekend Prime Minister Christie addressed the annual seminar of the Mediterranean Shipping Company in Freeport, Grand Bahama.

He emphasised The Bahamas’ goal of attracting new investments and creating jobs for Bahamians. *”While there are certain inherent attractions in doing business in Freeport, let me also remind you that opportunities, equally as attractive, also exist throughout our archipelago,”*he said.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company was invited to place some of its fleet on the Bahamian Registry. *”The existence of the Container Port here in Grand Bahama and its previously announced plans for expansion of the facility, no doubt, have played a role in your deciding to come to Freeport. In much the same way, therefore, it is my hope that you would find it possible to look seriously at The Bahamas as one of the world’s premier ship registration centres,”* the Prime Minister said. The Mediterranean Shipping Company fleet contains some 200 vessels plying the globe.

Rated the third largest in the world, The Bahamas Ship Registry now has more than 1400 ships registered, representing some 35,000,000 gross tons. It ranks as number one in cruise and passenger ships. Bahamas Maritime Authority management and staff in London, New York and Nassau boast readiness to support Bahamian flag shipowners, their attorneys and bankers around the globe.

The Freeport Container Port is undergoing Phase IV of an expansion project that will increase its capacity to handle 1.5 million teu. At the same time Freeport Harbour is being deepened to accommodate the largest vessels in the world. Phase V will create an additional 350m/1150 ft. of berth space, with handling capacity for containers increasing to 1.9 million teu.

The Prime Minister also envisaged several of the islands of the Southeast Bahamas exploring opportunities to become shipping hubs to facilitate shipping through the Caribbean and into South America. He said, for example, the geographic location and deep water of islands such as Mayaguana and Inagua positioned them well for this purpose.

**Unparalleled Investment Environment**

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister addressed a Community Leaders Forum hosted by law firm GrayHarris in Orlando. At that time he also spoke to the opportunities for investment in an “unparalleled” atmosphere of government cooperation, investor incentives and prompt attention to enquiries and approvals.

Referencing the Ministry he specifically created to oversee financial services and investments, the Prime Minister said, *”The first and most important job of that ministry is to stimulate investments and promote efficient equity growth by welcoming investors and replacing any bureaucratic obstacles with an eager and open ‘Yes we can’ attitude toward investors seeking opportunities in our country.”*

During its first year in office, the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments has been aggressive in pursuing both foreign and domestic investment, and also has worked hard to secure The Bahamas’ position as “the finest Financial Services Centre in the world.” Pointing to the Government’s five-year strategic plan, the Prime Minister noted that persons responsible for foreign investment have been mandated to maintain – amongst other things – a competitive tax environment, transparent economic policies and clear guidelines for all investors.

Prime Minister Christie and some members of his Cabinet spent two days in Central Florida to encourage an exchange of ideas about how business relationships and trade between Florida and The Bahamas can be improved. He said this nation wants to take greater advantage of the relationships that exist and those that can be created – citizen to citizen, government to government and business to business. *”I see more connection in the future. Ours is a constant challenge to present our country and the opportunities for businesses to invest there. Our ‘twin pillar’ industries – tourism and financial services – are dynamic and vibrant, and we expect them to continue to grow.”*