The 26th session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was held at IMO Headquarters, London, from 23 November to 4 December 2009. The Assembly is the governing body of the IMO, and all 169 Member States and three Associate Members are entitled to attend, as are the intergovernmental organizations with which agreements of co operation have been concluded, and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO. The Assembly normally meets once every two years in regular session. It is responsible for approving the work programme, voting the budget and determining the financial arrangements of the Organization. It also elects the Council.

A statement from Mrs. Erma Rahming Mackey, Deputy Director of the [Bahamas Maritime Authority](, at the start of the Assembly last week noted that The Bahamas was a candidate for re-election to Category C membership on the IMO Council. Category C Council includes member states that have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world. Elections are by secret ballot cast by representatives of IMO member countries attending the Assembly session.

Delegates from The Bahamas included the Hon. Earl Deveaux, Minister of the Environment; H.E. Paul Farquharson, Bahamas High Commissioner to England and Europe and the Permanent Representative to the IMO; and Mr. Ian Fair, Chairman of the Bahamas Maritime Authority. Also a part of the delegation was the London Team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At the Vote on November 27, The Bahamas was reelected to the Council, as a Category C Member for the 2010-2011 biennium. BMA Chairman Ian Fair said, *”We are absolutely delighted at our re-election. The Bahamas is well regarded in the maritime world and we certainly punch well above our weight. This was a total team effort and it was very encouraging to see young Bahamians on the team, which augers well for the future.”*

The Council membership is for a term of two years. The next IMO Assembly will convene to re-elect the new Council Member States in 2011.

The IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations for shipping. It was established in 1948 and is devoted exclusively to maritime matters. Its main objective is to facilitate cooperation among governments on technical matters affecting international shipping, such as maritime safety and prevention of pollution from ships. The IMO also deals with legal matters connected with international shipping and facilitation of international maritime traffic. The principal organs of the IMO are the Assembly, the Council and five Committees.

##Leading Ship Registry##

The Bahamas is the third largest ship registry in the world, behind Panama and Liberia respectively. Mrs. Mackey says, *“At the end of September 30, 2009, we had 1700 ships amounting to 52.8 million gross tons registered with the Maritime Authority. The Bahamas is already the premier register for cruise passenger ships worldwide.”*

The Bahamas Ship Registry contributes significant revenues as noted by the Deputy Director, *“Since being established in 1995, the main purpose of the Maritime Authority is to administer the ship register, which has been a major revenue earner for us for the last 33 years.”*

##Arbitration Services##

Mrs. Mackey also took the opportunity to speak to The Arbitration Bill 2009, which establishes International Pro-Arbitration Standards and benefits the BMA through strengthening the rule of law. *“The Arbitration Bill will be an added service for The Bahamas and it’s good for us to be an Arbitration Centre, so persons anywhere in the world can come here to settle disputes,”* she said. The Bill provides a ready option for members of BMA’s large ship registry to have their disputes settled in The Bahamas, where their ships are registered.

The United Nations Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, or the New York Convention, obligates member nations to recognize and enforce international arbitration rules and foreign arbitral awards. The Convention is now in the Schedule to the Arbitration Bill.