Nassau, The Bahamas -- The Bahamas Maritime Authority is the future industry destined to be the biggest contributor to The Bahamas’ economy. Along with Tourism and Banking, the BMA will promote the archipelago nation as a private cruising destination.
“I’ve always felt we have not exploited our natural resources to keep abreast of the opportunities that the world presents,” said Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Earl Deveaux.
“If you remember at one time in the history of The Bahamas, sponging accounted for our economy. It employed more people than banking and tourism employ today. We exploited it to the point where the sponge got a disease. The Bahamas Maritime Authority is somewhat like that.”
During the June 2010 budget contribution for the Ministry of the Environment, tabled in the House of Assembly, Minister Deveaux expressed the necessity to revisit Maritime’s past contributions to the economy, similar to the success of the sponging industry.
“If you look at the marine environment of The Bahamas and what Bahamians can do and what the world demands, then you will see we have the most beautiful cruising destination in the world,” said Dr. Deveaux.
“If you think of the Caribbean Sea as the largest sea and think of The Bahamas in that sea, our hundred thousand square miles represent the most beautiful water in the world. It is a gift unparalleled in the world.”
Minister Deveaux drew a connection between the power of The Bahamas’ location and its economy. He compared it to the Greek Isles in the Mediterranean Sea, which is known worldwide for its expansive matrix in the shipping industry.
“With the number of pleasure boats in Florida and the things we have done in Law, the next step is to train Bahamians to match the potential of our environment and to meet the beauty of our water,” said Dr. Deveaux.
“The smaller boats and the larger boats represent just under a hundred thousand pleasure crafts registered in Florida. We are told that when Cuba opens up fully, 25,000 of them will leave Florida to go to Cuba in the first year.”
Minister Deveaux said that maritime opportunities would open up an international employment market for Bahamians at the same time as it opens a profitable tourism market.
“A boat of about thirty to forty feet usually carries a crew of three to four and if it has an owner sufficiently well endowed on a bigger boat, you can have as many as six people on a boat,” said Dr. Deveaux.
“Captains, engineers, stewards, deckhands, and the onshore opportunities for provisioning the boat with fuel, water, cleaning them, guiding them through some of our waters represents a huge opportunity to grow the Bahamian economy in ways that hark back to our natural heritage as seafarers.”
Minister Deveaux said the economic prosperity could be extended from the sea to the arbitration issues.
“We passed an Arbitration Act and right now yachts represent less than one percent of the register of the Bahamas Maritime Authority. We seek to grow the BMA in every respect, but probably the most significant area where we can grow it in the short run is the yacht registry,” said Dr. Deveaux.
“We have done what we need to do to grow it in Law. We’ve made the fees more competitive, we passed the Maritime Act, and we’ve adopted a yacht code. Those are what gets yachts registered in The Bahamas but the bigger opportunity is whether you would get Bahamians on the yachts.”
Minister Deveaux illustrated his vision for economic expansion with a personal experience he encountered while having breakfast on a yacht in the Atlantis Marina Village and shared the BMA’s target registry increase for this year.
“The boat was registered in the Caymans, the young lady that served me breakfast was from Australia, and the young man cleaning the boat was from England, and the captain of the ship was from Europe. Anyone of those jobs by a Bahamian would represent a huge leap, and if you multiply 1 by 78,000, you get the idea of the potential I speak about,” said Dr. Deveaux.
“The BMA’s first target is to see every customer on the register at least twice in this year, with specific reference to the yacht registration. We want to increase it by 10 percent in the next year and then grow it from there as we
move on. One of the other things we did was to approve weddings at sea, so we’ll be amending our Marriage Act to accommodate ‘weddings at sea’ in specified areas, which will help us grow our cruise industry business.”