**The Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, M.P.
Prime Minister
Commonwealth of The Bahamas**

Providing remarks during the Opening Ceremony for the **Bahamas International Maritime Conference and Trade Show (BIMCATS)** today, Prime Minister Ingraham described host city Freeport not only as the nation’s second city, but its industrial centre and maritime humb.

Speaking to The Bahamas as an archipelagic nation with a strong maritime tradition, he noted that its people traditionally turn to the sea not only for sustenance and economic livelihood but also for leisure-time enjoyment and sports. *”It is not surprising then, that soon after attaining nationhood in 1973 we moved to develop a maritime industry in our country opening new economic and employment opportunities for Bahamians and Bahamian-based businesses.”* he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the sea has been the primary means of transportation for both passengers and cargo between the islands of The Bahamas, and even in the era of air travel this is still very much the case, certainly for cargo. He noted that with tourism, the principal engine of the economy, the sea always has been an integral part of that sector – not only the irresistible attraction of crystal clear waters and sandy beaches of pink and gold, but the arrival of several million visitors to the islands via ocean-going luxury cruise liners. This development began in the last century, and the cruise sector of the tourism industry has expanded now to rival and surpass hotel-based tourism.

Conference delegates were told of plans for a major enlargement of harbour facilities in the capital city of Nassau so that the port will be able to accommodate the largest cruise vessels now under construction. A related project will relocate commercial shipping outside the downtown city centre. Additionally, there are plans for the enhancement of land side cruise ship port facilities in Grand Bahama.

Dating back to modest beginnings in 1977, the development of the Bahamas Ship Registry has seen considerable growth, to become the third largest in the world. The Prime Minister said, however, that the objective never has been to become the largest ship registry. *”Instead, we have concentrated and focussed our efforts on becoming a well regulated and properly supervised registry capable of delivering quality service.”* The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) administers the Ship Register.

**Bahamas Maritime Authority**

The BMA was established in 1995, and had among its goals and objectives:

• To promote, facilitate and encourage the development of ship registration and maritime administration;

• To regulate and control all matters related to merchant shipping;

• To participate in international organizations dealing with maritime-related matters;

• To advise the Government on any matter relating to merchant shipping, marine pollution prevention and control; and

• To expand and create maritime employment opportunities for Bahamians.

**International Maritime Organisation/Conventions**

As a responsible member of the international maritime community, The Bahamas has been a member and active participant in the activities of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) since 1976. This nation has served as a member of the IMO Council between 1991 and 1995 and again from 1999 to 2007. At the end of 2007, it was re-election to that body yet again.

Prime Minister Ingraham pointed out that membership on the IMO Council has afforded The Bahamas the opportunity to participate in discussions leading to the development of new international maritime laws and regulations, including discussion of threats to the industry.

The Bahamas is party to the most important of the international conventions and agreements which regulate maritime affairs and which seek to guard against the damage to the world’s oceans which might result from reckless actions and or environmentally unsustainable practices. Among the major maritime conventions to which The Bahamas is party are: the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), Marine Pollution (MARPOL), Standards of Training and Certification of Seafarers (STCW), and the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006. Together these four international conventions form the pillars of international maritime regulatory regime for quality shipping. Further, The Bahamas is one of only three countries to have ratified the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006, sometimes referred to as the Seafarer’s Bill of Rights.


Although the founder of the city had remarkable foresight some half a century ago to create Freeport’s deep harbour and further sought to develop a major container transshipment port as the principal business of this city, the Prime Minister said the dream of the transshipment port was not fully realized until the arrival in Grand Bahama of the Hutchison Whampoa investor group back in 1995.

Today, the Freeport Container Port, operated by Hutchinson Port Holding in conjunction with its industry partner, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), sits on the deepest port in the region, and reportedly is the 72nd busiest container terminal in the world and the 4th busiest hub for MSC. The Phase V expansion of the Port presently is underway, and will result in the facility’s expansion to include 16 quay cranes, 2 mobile harbour cranes, 94 straddle carriers and more than 1 mile of wharf which represents a 50% increase in capacity at the port.

The Grand Bahama Shipyard – whose development began in 1999 – was described as a state-of-the-art facility operating two floating dry docks and two wet berths capable of repairing some of the largest and most advanced vessels in the world.

*”The location of these two important maritime-based enterprises in Grand Bahama has proven beneficial to both the investors and to our country,”* the Prime Minister said. *”Indeed, the rapid expansion of operations at the Container Port and at the Shipyard is indicative, I believe, of the economic success of their undertakings.*

**Business Development**

In conclusion, the Prime Minister affirmed that importance of maritime affairs noting estimates that close to 90% of all goods consumed around the globe, at some stage or other, is transported by sea. In that sense, he said, one might argue that the shipping industry was the world’s first truly globalized business. The Bahamas believes that the maritime industry continues to present great potential for development locally and internationally. By preparing itself with the appropriate legislative and administrative framework necessary to properly and adequately monitor and regulate the sector, and by providing state-of-the-art port and maritime support facilities, it remains well poised to benefit from growth and development in the sector.

He encouraged the owners and operators of international maritime businesses present, many of them co-sponsors of the first BIMCATS, to explore the myriad opportunities that exist for new and increased business in and from Freeport.

The Organising Committee for the first BIMCATS comprised representatives from industry partners, and was headed by Michael Humes, First Assistant Secretary in the Cabinet Office. The public private sector-sponsored event was intended to serve as a platform for showcasing the multiple facets of the country’s Maritime Industry, particularly as it relates to trans-shipment, trade, ship ownership, registry services, ship repair and other areas of maritime services. Specifically, Mr. Humes said in an earlier release, *”The conference and trade show will seek to promote The Bahamas as a hub for international trade; highlight the benefits and advantages of The Bahamas International Ship Registry; draw attention to the latest developments and opportunities in the maritime industry in The Bahamas and explore issues related to local and international investment trends and opportunities in the maritime industry.”*

The Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) co-sponsored BIMCATS and CEO Wendy Warren also said earlier, *“We’re very excited about the conference and very pleased to be a part of it; it’s a good programme for the Bahamas generally. We have always been convinced that, wherever possible, we secure the greatest benefits when our business partners come to see us in our home.”*