This article was first published in Spring/Summer 2018 issue of the International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
The Bahamas’ popularity as a cruise destination continues to grow, with an increasing number of ships expected to visit in 2018. Among the new arrivals for Nassau in 2018 are five newbuilds – Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Horizon and Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam. Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Carnival are also investing in private island destinations.
For cruise operators, the draw is just as powerful as it is for their passengers. The Bahamas is home to one of the world’s largest ship registers, with more than 50 million gross tons of ships flying The Bahamas flag worldwide. Silversea Cruises’ 40,700gt Silver Muse, Dream Cruises’ 150,695gt Genting Dream and Virgin Voyages’ yet-to-launch newbuilds demonstrate the variety of vessels registered with The Bahamas Maritime Authority’s (BMA).
The BMA collaborates with its shipowners, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the wider shipping industry to strike a balance between regulations and the cruise line objectives, recognising the common aim of ensuring safe and secure shipping on cleaner oceans.
“We have a very positive, constructive dialogue with individual shipowners and CLIA,” says Hutchinson. “We’re continually building on that to be at the forefront of any concerns the industry has, and to ascertain how to balance the regulatory approach with cruise operators’ needs. That’s an ongoing challenge as regulations lag behind the cruise industry, which remains forward-thinking as witnessed by the introduction of energy efficiency designs/measures, along with waste management/recycling practices and operational procedures to improve onboard safety and environmental sustainability.”
The drive for new experiences and destinations to satisfy passenger expectations has resulted in Bahamas registered vessels pioneering new cruise routes in Antarctica and Arctic, two of the world’s most environmentally sensitive seas. “The feedback from planning and executing these voyages provided us, shipowners, the broader shipping industry and port authorities with invaluable experience about some of the challenges of future voyages in those regions,” says Hutchinson. “It also gave insights for practical application of the IMO Polar Code, which sets a standard for ships wanting to trade in that region.”
The BMA’s success is evident in recent highlights, such as the achievement of the US Coast Guard Qualship 21, which ensures that the ships meet the required quality standards for visiting US ports. “Qualship 21 has significant benefits for any ship flying The Bahamas flag in US waters,” says Hutchinson. “Globally, the high port state control ranking in the Paris MoU and Tokyo MoU bodes well for ships trading in European and Far East markets.”
The positive impact of BMA’s efforts and collaborative approach will continue to be seen by cruise industry as The Bahamas actively participates in the regulatory process at the International Maritime Organization and International Labour Organization to ensure new requirements are proportionate, fair and clear.
“The Bahamas continues to deliver a quality service to customers whether they’re shipowners entrusting their ships on the ship registry or passengers sampling all the experience that the islands gave to offer” says Hutchinson.
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