The Bahamas Shipowners Association (BSA) held its annual meeting in The Bahamas earlier this month.

Addressing delegates, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Transport & Aviation, pledged the Bahamas Government’s continued commitment to working with industry stakeholders to promote the maritime industry and growth of the ship registry.

She also noted the commitment to maintaining the highest standards in the industry, saying that The Bahamas would continue to sign on to international conventions that would help improve such standards. *“The commitment of our registry in this regard is reflected in the standard of ownership of vessels registered under The Bahamas flag. It is this commitment that has enabled The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) to achieve international respect and to be held in high repute both commercially and at the regulatory level at the ILO.*”

**International Conventions**

The Minister reported that The Bahamas has deemed it appropriate and desirable to become signatories to the relevant international conventions and protocols which would assist in achieving high standards. In this connection, The Bahamas was reported to be in the process of acceding to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention) as well as the ILO Seafarer’s Convention.

The New York Convention was adopted by diplomatic conference on June 10, 1958, and its promotion is an integral part of the UN Commission on International Trade Law. It is widely recognized as a foundation instrument of international arbitration, applying to the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards made in the territory of a State other than the State where the recognition and enforcement of such awards are sought, and arising out of differences between persons, whether physical or legal. It also applies to arbitral awards not considered as domestic awards in the State where their recognition and enforcement are sought.

**BSA Activities**

Discussions at the annual meeting focused in large part on the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, dubbed the Super Convention due to its scope and impact on the industry. Ms. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards and Maritime Activities at International Labour Organisation, was the keynote speaker, and illuminated the finer points of the Convention. The Maritime Labour Convention was adopted by the 94th International Labour Conference at a maritime session in Geneva in February 2006, and covers, inter alia, conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection for seafarers, as well as the regulation of recruitment and placement services and flag State inspection systems.

Reports were presented on various activities of the BSA during the year, including the March visit by BSA and BMA with Mr. Jacques de Dieu, Deputy Head of the EC Maritime Transport Policy and Maritime Safety Unit, and Ib Matthiesen, Head of Safety, Assessments and Inspections at the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). Also discussed was the upcoming meeting in Washington with Admiral Craig E. Bone, Assistant Commandant for Prevention, and other US Coast Guard representatives. These meetings have become annual events and were described as fruitful encounters which provide an important forum for dialogue on crucial issues like the Large Passenger Ship Safety initiative and the criminalisation of seafarers.

The BSA and BMA are currently sponsoring seven Bahamian cadets enrolled on a four-year undergraduate course in Maritime Studies at the California Maritime Academy. This course combines both academic and professional training which gives the cadets the opportunity to spend the summer training at sea on various types of vessels flagged with The Bahamas. These steadily increasing cadetships demonstrate the BSA and BMA’s commitment to ensuring that Bahamians figure prominently in the maritime future of their country.

The Bahamas Shipowners Association was inaugurated in London on 11 July 1997. Its objectives are to promote the interests of owners of Bahamian registered vessels and to facilitate dialogue between the Bahamas Maritime Authority and ship owners. It is also geared to offer owners the chance to be proactive in discussing prospective international policy changes, especially with regard to IMO deliberations and to meet with international bodies such as the European Community and the US Coast Guard to lobby on behalf of the interests of Bahamas flagged vessels.

The Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, addressing members of the Honorary Consular Corps at a luncheon meeting last week also paid tribute to the importance of the Bahamas Ship Registry. He said the accession to the New York Convention and the International Labour Organisation Seafarer’s Convention would enhance the competitiveness of the Bahamas as a ship registry. The Minister further pointed out that the work of his Ministry and that of the Ministry of Transport will be integrated on international maritime matters “as part of the mission to promote Bahamian trade abroad”. The Bahamas maintains the third largest flag registry in the world.

*Editors Note: The Bahamas ratified the New York Convention on December 20, with effective date scheduled for 20 March 2007.*