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Which ships are eligible for registration in the national shipping register(s) and which parties may register ships?

All ships, with the exception of fishing vessels, are eligible for registration in The Bahamas. Vessels with a net registered tonnage of 1,600 tons or more and which are no more than 12 years old on the date of registration may be registered without regard to the owner’s nationality. Vessels which are more than 12 years old cannot be registered without being subject to a detailed initial survey by a recognised classification society. Bahamian companies do not have to be registered as the owner of a vessel where the owner is not a Bahamian national, thus making The Bahamas an open registry.


What are the procedural and documentary requirements for registration?

Registration may take place in Nassau, London, New York, Hong Kong or Greece. Registration documents can also be processed through the Bahamas Maritime Authority’s (BMA’s) Tokyo agency. The person who registers a vessel becomes the original registrar and thereafter administers that vessel.

To start the registration process, the vessel owner, which may be an individual or a corporation, must complete and submit to the registrar an Application to Register Form (R102), which includes the vessel’s name and general details. An individual or a corporation may authorise an agent to process the application and sign the necessary documents on its behalf. A Registration of Managing Owner Form (R104), which provides the full contact details of the managers responsible for the vessel’s day-to-day management, should also be submitted, together with copies of the vessel’s current class certificates (for further details please see Technical Procedures and Requirements for Registration of Ships).

After an application has been reviewed, the registrar will confirm the vessel’s suitability for provisional registration in the register (as applicable). Further, the registrar will reserve the vessel’s name and issue Bahamian identification details (ie, an official number, a call sign and a maritime mobile service identity number). The remaining registration forms and required documents listed below should then be submitted, together with the applicable registration fees.

Once all registration requirements are fulfilled, the vessel will be registered and the following Bahamian certificates and documents will be issued:

  • a provisional certificate of registry;
  • a radio communication licence;
  • a safe manning document;
  • a ship’s carving and marking note;
  • an oil pollution civil liability certificate (CLC);
  • a bunker CLC;
  • a continuous synopsis record;
  • a long-range identification and tracking conformance test report;
  • a maritime labour compliance (part one) declaration; and
  • a set of statutory ship publications.

Vessels are provisionally registered for six months to allow owners to complete all flag change formalities and fulfil BMA requirements for permanent registration (see requirements listed below).

Once all requirements are met, a permanent certificate of registry will be issued.

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds may a registration application be refused?

If a vessel does not meet the registration requirements set out by the BMA, its application will be refused.


Are there any particular advantages of flying your jurisdiction’s flag?

Flying the Bahamian flag has the following advantages:

  • Reputation – The Bahamas has a reputation built on over 30 years of inspecting, monitoring and servicing its flag carriers to a very high standard. It celebrates being a flag state with one of the lowest port detention rates. Consequently, The Bahamas’ ship registry is on the white lists of all major seafaring nations.
  • Bareboat registration – The Bahamas allows dual registration of Bahamians vessel and Bahamian registration of foreign vessels once their primary country allows this. At the time of the bareboat charter, The Bahamas flag is suspended; however mortgages may continue to be recorded.
  • Young fleet – The Bahamas’ registry discourages ships which are more than 12 years old, although exceptions are made in certain circumstances.
  • International offices – The Bahamas’ registry has offices in several key locations to enable it to service ship owners.
  • Nautical inspectors – the BMA has a network of qualified and approved nautical inspectors to undergo safety and crew condition inspections on board Bahamian vessels and render assistance thereto.
  • Competitive fees – The Bahamas’ registration fees are reasonable and internationally competitive, based on a ship’s tonnage.
  • Tax exemptions – The Bahamas imposes no income tax on income or capital gains from its vessels. Other exemptions also apply, depending on the circumstances, such as with regard to customs and stamp duty.
  • Open registry – there are no restrictions on the nationality of a vessel’s owners or crew as long as it is engaged in foreign trade (ie, trade not exclusively within the islands of The Bahamas).
  • Simple registration process – both the vessel registration and mortgage processes are simple and straightforward. BMA employees are efficient with a turnover of a matter of days once the registrant has met all requirements.

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