Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bahamas 'on way' to world's best fleet

FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA - The Bahamian maritime industry is taking on new and increased importance in the overall economy, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday as he opened the third annual Bahamas Maritime Conference on Grand Bahama.
He indicated that the country has an impressive ship register, one of the largest in the world, with over 52 million gross tons.
The two-day conference is being held at the Our Lucaya Resort, under the theme: 'The Mariner; Building on the Year of the Seafarers.'
During his address, Mr Ingraham noted that the conference has grown increasingly important to the development of the maritime sector in the Bahamas.
In addition to having the third largest ship registry in the world, the Prime Minister said he looks forward to the growth of a mega yacht registry for the Bahamas.
"It is not our goal to have the biggest fleet in the world, but the desire is to have the best fleet in the world, and I think it is fair to say we are on our way," he said.
Mr Ingraham said Freeport continues to play a significant role in the maritime sector. He noted that the Freeport Harbour Company and Freeport Container Port have the deepest berths in the region.
The Ship Care Facility, he said, was one of the largest, with three floating dry docks that are able to receive the largest cruise ships, commercial cargo ships and mega yachts. The facility contributes some $40 million to the Grand Bahama economy each year, Mr Ingraham said.
The Prime Minister said Freeport also has two significant fuel and crude oil transshipment terminals, one of which is the largest in the region.
The BORCO terminal, which was recently acquired by US-based Buckeye Partners for $1.7 billion, plans to increase its storage capacity from 20 million barrels to 30 million barrels in the years ahead.
Mr Ingraham said some $400 million has been invested in the oil facility, which also has the ability to blend and transship crude oil, as well as other fuel and petroleum products.
He also noted that cruise ship facilities in Freeport and Nassau handle many of the world's largest ships every day.
"The Bahamas is one of the principal cruise destinations in the Caribbean, and several cruise companies have their own facilities on several of our islands," said Mr Ingraham.
He said the Government is proud of the achievements in the maritime sector, and constantly seeks to improve maritime services and products offered in the Bahamas.
Mr Ingraham believes that a stable democracy, sound legal system, independent judiciary, having a currency on par with the US dollar, and the advantage of being a no tax jurisdiction make the Bahamas is one of the world's premier centres for international services.
He said shipping companies have already chosen the Bahamas as a home for their business.
While the Bahamas aims to attract the top-end of the market for quality ship owners, Mr Ingraham said there is a need for top quality seafarers.
"The shortage of qualified seafarers is a problem yet to be resolved. For our part, we recognise the importance and urgency of trained Bahamians to perform the full spectrum of maritime activities," he said.
In an effort to address the shortage, Mr Ingraham said the Bahamas Maritime Authority and the Bahamas Ship Owners Association have sponsored training for deck and engineers cadets.
"We believe we are developing a corp of highly qualified and experienced mariners capable of assuming leading roles in both Bahamian and international shipping industries.
"We created the cadet program and made it open to all young expose them to great opportunities and career advancement in the sector," the Prime Minister said.
"We are happy to work with industry partners to enhance and increase opportunity for Bahamians."

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