The Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, presented welcoming remarks at the 3rd [Bahamas International Maritime Conference and Trade Show]( (BIMCATS) in Freeport today. The event is being sponsored by the Bahamas Maritime Authority, in association with the Bahamas Ministry of the Environment.

The Prime Minister spoke to the impressive Bahamas Ship Register, one of the largest fleets in the world with over 52 million in gross tonnage, and the anticipated growth of a Mega Yacht Registry. The Yacht Registry was launched in the fall of 2010.

He used this opportunity of addressing the impressive mix of international and domestic maritime industry professionals and investors on The Bahamas’ position as one of the world’s premier centres for international services. *“We are a stable democracy with a sound legal system and an independent judiciary. We are a low-tax jurisdiction with no taxes on income, wealth or inheritance, and our currency is held at parity with the US dollar. The continuity, consistency and commitment we offer in providing financial services strengthen our appeal as a financial centre and create an attractive environment for business. We believe that we offer some of the best operating conditions required for businesses to operate satisfactorily and profitably.”*

For all these reasons, he said, ship-owners, managers and or operators looking for a home for their business need look no further than The Bahamas; a number of shipping companies have already done so. *“We constantly seek to improve our maritime services and products. And we also developed essential support industries, such as, finance, insurance, ship brokers, and expert maritime legal expertise.”*

##Conference Theme##

The Theme for BIMCATS 2011 is *”The Mariner: Building on the Year of the Seafarer”*. The Prime Minister noted that underlying all of the nation’s efforts is a commitment to quality. “*We aim to attract the top-end of the market in every field we operate. When we set out to attract ships to our fleet, we look for the quality owner with ships of which we can be proud. But, a top quality fleet needs top quality seafarers.”* He said, therefore, that the theme of the Conference is particularly relevant.

The Bahamas has recognized the importance and the urgency of training Bahamians to perform in the full spectrum of maritime activities; an ongoing goal is to develop a core of highly qualified and experienced mariners capable of assuming leading roles both in the Bahamian and international shipping industries. The Bahamas Maritime Authority and The Bahamas Shipowners Association have sponsored training for both deck and engineer cadets, and a cadet corps has been established to expose young Bahamians to career opportunities in the sector. *“We also recognize that ship-owners and operators require other professional services with a maritime bent — be they experts in finance, insurance, maritime law or other allied industries such as ship’s handlers, shipping agents and a myriad of associated businesses,”* the Prime Minister said, noting that The Bahamas would be happy to work with industry partners to enhance and increase opportunities for Bahamians to qualify to fill those needs.

He concluded that shipping, properly regulated and monitored, today is probably the most environmentally-friendly mode of transport; it is almost certainly the most economical. Reports indicate that over 90% of world trade is carried by sea; the vast majority is carried safely, cleanly and economically in ships that are of excellent quality.

##Maritime Sector Developments##

BIMCATS has gained in importance to the development of the maritime sector and, in fact, to the overall economy of The Bahamas as the cluster of maritime-related business expands.

• Hutchison Whampoa’s Freeport Harbour and Container Port, has the deepest berths in the region, and serves as a major container transshipment hub for the eastern seaboard of the US and as the principal east-west line-haul route through the region.

• Freeport is host to a large ship care facility with three floating dry docks able to receive for repairs and refurbishment, the largest cruise ships afloat, commercial cargo ships and mega yachts.

• Freeport and Grand Bahama Island host two significant fuel and crude oil storage and transshipment terminals. At BORCO, recently acquired by US-based Buckeye at the princely sum of $1.7 billion, some $400 million are being invested in an enlarged storage facility, which is already the largest in the region with a 20 million barrel capacity but which will be increased further to 30 million barrels in the years ahead. The facility has the ability to blend and transship crude oil, bunker fuel and other petroleum products.

• The ship repair facility has full accreditation from Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance Inc., under the relevant ISO standards for quality and the environment. Not only do these standards represent an internationally acclaimed benchmark, being held by very few ship repair yards globally, but the yard is considered by industry experts to have the most advanced environmental treatment scheme of any shipyard in the world. It contributes around B$40 million to the local economy each year. As early as 2002 it was named as ‘Shipyard of the Year’.

• In both Freeport and Nassau there are extensive cruise ship facilities which handle many of the world’s largest ships every day. The Bahamas is one of the principal cruise destinations in the Caribbean region and several of the largest cruise ship companies have their own facilities on Family Islands.