In an address to the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) Chairman Ian Fair called for all involved in the jurisdiction’s maritime industries to unite under a “Maritime Bahamas” brand.

This, he said, would allow all to feed off their respective strengths and develop strategies that would benefit the sector as a whole. The Chairman said The Bahamas has the potential to become even more of a major maritime player in the Western Hemisphere given its location, tax regime, existing harbours and the services provided to seafaring vessels. The maritime industry is considered to be the third largest contributor to the Bahamian economy, with the Bahamas Ship Register having almost 1,700 vessels, representing 57 million gross tonnes. That being said, Mr. Fair pointed out *”We do not intend to rest on our laurels. Our vision is to have all these maritime industries and organisations join forces and coordinate their approach to the rest of the world. This would bring benefits to all Bahamians,”* Mr Fair said.

His vision for Maritime Bahamas includes a coordinating team but he says modern communications would make it possible to involve virtually all interested parties in the broader policy decisions. It could become a ‘one stop shop’ for those making enquiries about maritime business in The Bahamas; ensure that any presence at international conferences and exhibitions reflects the full range of maritime interests and possibilities within The Bahamas; and advise on careers in the sector. *“By having maritime interests talking to one another, fresh ideas would emerge to enhance the future for all.”*

The Chairman also spoke to the maritime industry’s huge potential to generate extra work and spin-offs for the Bahamian financial services industry – including the insurance sector, accountants and attorneys – and said there are lessons to be learned from other small island states that have exploited the maritime sector. For example, both Cyprus and the Isle of Man have attracted large numbers of ship management countries, with finance houses and insurance companies following these firms to the latter jurisdiction. *“The Bahamas could use its proximity to the Americas to do the same, and also market the attractions of its tax system – as Singapore did to attract Japanese shipping owners.”*

Mr. Fair took the opportunity of the Chamber presentation to announce plans to host a high level Bahamas International Business Forum in Freeport during February 2013, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Business Council. *”The Council has much experience in organising such events, and in identifying international persons of interest to attend,”* he said. GBPA plans also include a number of promotional visits overseas, with Asia, South America and Europe identified as initial targets. *“The key message is what Grand Bahama has to offer as a global shipping and business centre in preparation for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2014. As a result of our strategic location we can – and should – be a major beneficiary of the increased trade flows from this expansion.”*