As the world transitions into a post-pandemic phase, the Bahamian shipping industry and the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) are resilient, optimistic and committed to a positive future for The Bahamas' ship registry.
Captain Dwain Hutchinson, managing director and CEO of the BMA, has stated the following:
The importance and the resilience of shipping has been showcased to the world as we contributed to the global response to the pandemic. I have been encouraged by how well the industry, including the BMA team, have adapted their processes and we at the BMA are looking forward to taking the newly acquired skills and revised processes to continue providing the highest possible levels of service. Of necessity, we have implemented solutions to address unheard-of challenges, the outcome being unexpected benefits in terms of efficiencies for the team and clients alike.
Throughout the pandemic, the BMA has developed a strong but flexible system for inspections, surveys and audits of Bahamian registered vessels.
The BMA requires initial and annual inspections of vessels to be carried out in person. However, if such inspections cannot be carried out due to covid-19-related restrictions, an owner or operator can advise the BMA Inspections & Surveys department and provide supporting information. Inspections should then be carried out at the first port where an inspector is available. The BMA also authorises its Recognised Organisations to consider applications for extension or postponement under force majeure or unforeseen exceptional circumstances and make an appropriate recommendation to the BMA. A physical survey should then be conducted at the earliest opportunity.
The requirement for pre-registration inspections has been waived by the BMA until 31 December 2021 for vessels up to 20 years of age. Vessels over 20 years of age shall be considered on a case-by-case basis and inspection requirements will be advised by the BMA. All vessels proposed for registration, except for new builds, shall require a technical documentation review.
The BMA also provides various alternative procedures for International Safety Management Code (ISM) and International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) internal audits, and ISM and ISPS external audits when it is not possible to attend in person and a remote audit is not practicable.(1)
As the pandemic accelerated the digitisation of everyday life, the BMA made certain technological advancements to its online platform.
For its 25th anniversary, the BMA launched a newly redesigned and customer-friendly website in November 2020. It made a number of technological enhancements to its Bahamas Online Registration Information System (BORIS). BORIS provides a simplified registration process for registered owners, ISM managers and authorised manning agents of Bahamian registered vessels. The service facilitates single entry of vessel details, registration and seafarer applications, and certificate verification.
This environmentally friendly and progressive system improves business efficiency, increases accuracy, and saves time and costs for clients during the registration process.
Carolyn Moree, registrar and deputy director of the BMA, said:
The launch of the new enhancements to BORIS is a significant and progressive step for the BMA. With the rapid increase in business transactions conducted with online assistance during the past several months, it is an appropriate time to launch our Online Vessel Registration System . . . The registration process is simplified and, with the user-friendly design of the system, we believe our clients will welcome the results of Phase One of this innovative online service.
The BMA also recognises the use of electronic certificates in lieu of traditional paper certificates. For BMA-issued certificates, the BMA has advanced to full implementation of electronic certificates. Certificates can now be obtained instantaneously, records are available online at all times and validity may be verified online. The new digital documents shall be issued in accordance with the requirements of the International Maritime Organization guidelines for the use of electronic certificates. Original hard-copy certificates that were previously issued by the BMA shall remain valid and be carried on vessels until such electronic certificates are available.(2)
A new Bahamas Merchant Shipping Act (the MSA Act) has been drafted, although it is not yet available to the public. It will replace the current Merchant Shipping Act 1976 (Chapter 268, Statute Law of The Bahamas 2000 Revised Edition). The MSA Act is expected to introduce a more updated and comprehensive scheme for the registration and regulation of Bahamian registered vessels.
In response to local covid-19 restrictions and as a continued safety precaution for all staff and clients, the BMA has adjusted its operational times and attendance protocols for its offices worldwide, details of which can be found in BMA Technical Alert 21-02.
For further information on this topic please contact Laura D Harris at Lennox Paton by telephone (+1 242 502 5000) or email ([email protected]). The Lennox Paton website can be accessed at www.lennoxpaton.com.
(1) BMA Technical Alert 21-01.