Bahamas Maritime Update: 4 Major Changes and what it means for you

Bahamas Maritime Update: 4 Major Changes and what it means for you

Recognizing the growth potential and strength of our local maritime industry, the Bahamas government has implemented new regulations in the Maritime Sector. This has been done to update the industry to meet modern demands, gain additional revenues and prepare for increased traffic in our area.

These changes affect both local and foreign stakeholders. However I will specifically speak about the impact on vessel owners, managers and charterers and what it means for you.

#1 – Updated vessel health clearance

Made official in November 2014, there has been some additional health screening measures introduced by a medical team appointed by the Bahamas government. It was prodded on by the belief that Grand Bahama Island, as an entry point, is particularly vulnerable for the spreading of infectious diseases due the number and frequency of vessels trading within its ports. Particular attention was placed on vessels originating or transiting West Africa after the outbreak of Ebola.

In the past, customs clearances would be granted before a thorough review of the medical fitness of shipboard personnel had taken place. Under the current regulation, clearances will only be granted once all documents related to the crew’s health, be produced and reviewed by the medical authorities 24 hrs in advance of vessels arrival.

Although this requires additional form-filling for shipboard personnel, the benefit is that it assists in controlling the spread of infectious diseases and provides additional health screening for crews.

#2 – Tax haven gets VAT

In an effort to reinforce the government’s program of public finance reform and to reduce a debt burden, value added tax (VAT) was implemented throughout the Bahamas on January 1st 2015. VAT applies one rate across all industries for both goods and services.

This new tax reform means that organizations like customs, launch hire companies, ship’s agents or any local company providing services to vessels will now be adding a 7.5% VAT charge to your invoice depending on their individual tax statuses.

One cannot easily perceive any benefit from this increase in the cost of doing business but on the broader spectrum this and other public reorganization efforts will hopefully bring the country better in line with international standards and practices. Also on a positive note is the fact that Grand Bahama Island still has some tax concessions in place due to a special agreement with the Bahamas government. This means that most goods can be purchased tax-free on-island.

#3 – Grand Bahama Anchorage now an official port

To gain better control over its commercial coastal zones, on June 1st 2015 The Bahamas government has declared that the seabed southwest of the Freeport Harbour entrance commonly referred to as the “anchorage area” is now a controlled port area.

Under this new provision pilotage is required for all vessels entering or leaving the anchorage area.
Additionally port safety communications and other support services are provided by the Grand Bahama Independent Pilots association.

Increased regulation, safety and monitoring for vessels utilizing this area is a welcome change as there been many past incidences of vessel groundings in this area.

#4 – Pending regulations for Bahamas STS transfer operations

Over the past year the Bahamas Ministry of Transport and Aviation in conjunction with industry stakeholders have held a series of meetings in an effort to establish proper regulations to manage STS transfer activities in Bahamian maritime territories. Though the industry has had an excellent safety record locally, the government insists that it is now essential to ensure that national standards are implemented.

Addressing this increasingly popular method of bulk liquid cargo transfer in the fragile marine environs of the Bahamas is well overdue. The draft legislation includes revisions to the application process and a new fee structure. The proposed framework also adopts best practices from around the world that will further enhance the safety and sustainability of this activity locally.

What can you do?

  • Plan ahead. Keep these changes in mind as you plan your next port call to Grand Bahama Island.
  • Talk to your local representative as they will play a crucial role in ensuring that your operations run smoothly.
  • Attention should always be placed on all of the little details that can affect your bottom line.

For more information or free consultation, contact us or email me directly at joanel.louis@kairosmaritime.com. We’re always ready to serve you.

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