As the world draws its breath after the unprecedented challenges of 2020, The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has outlined its goals for the coming year, with a focus on how shipping ensures a positive future as it moves on from COVID-19.
Outlining his message to the industry, Captain Dwain Hutchinson, Managing Director and CEO of The BMA, said that the authority’s determination to keep quality at the heart of its business continues to be essential to The BMA’s future. However, no-one should underestimate the impacts of the pandemic on all business, some aspects being catastrophic, but some have proved beneficial.
“Health and safety remained at the forefront of the Authority’s decision-making process as we navigated the physical and mental challenges of the pandemic and its affects on our staff and customers alike. 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.”
The BMA has set up robust systems to handle remote inspections, surveys and other statutory work. The Authority has also launched a number of enhancements to its online services (BORIS) which have simplified registration procedures for vessels across the broad spectrum of ships on the Registry. The BMA foresees that the industry as a whole will be adopting new technology more rapidly than would have been predicted prior to 2020.
For 2021, Captain Hutchinson sees sustainability as a key issue for shipping and believes that the pandemic has accelerated the global adoption of technology which will be fundamental to the reduction of the environmental footprint of the industry. “We are determined that The BMA will continue to play a crucial role on the international stage as a leader with proactive engagement in the global recovery efforts, particularly through our membership of the International Maritime Organisation and International Labour Organisation. Every decision that we take is aligned to one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Whether relating to climate action, gender equality, responsible consumption, life below water or good health and well-being, all form a vital part in our regulatory mantra as a committed and responsible flag state.
“With the IMO World Maritime theme for 2021, ‘Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future’, The Bahamas is especially proud of the work that it undertook in initially offering shelter in Bahamian territorial waters to some 70 Bahamas registered and non-registered ships when the pandemic first took hold and then subsequently facilitating the repatriation of crews. Ultimately some 50,000 crew, from these ships were assisted in the efforts to return home. This, combined with the efforts taken with other governmental and intergovernmental bodies, enabled the crew from Bahamas flagged ships to be reunited with their loved ones at such an uncertain time. The human element of seafaring and the well-being of crew have always been fundamental to The Bahamas and this is demonstrated through our recognition of seafarers as key workers and our ongoing support of shipowners in facilitating crew repatriation, with the assistance of the IMO Seafarer Crisis Action Team when needed”.
2020 was an important year in the history of The BMA as it was the year of its 25th anniversary. During that time the BMA has grown to be a top 10 Flag with vessels from all market sectors, leading particularly in segments such as passenger, offshore and LNG. The Bahamas has served continuously on the IMO council since 1999 where it remains an advocate for a goal-based approach to the regulatory process to enable effective implementation by all.
“We are resolved to continue building on the successes of the past, expanding our global presence and growing the register but still ensuring that such growth will be focused on quality as the core criteria. Working collaboratively with our shipowners, their representatives and our Recognised Organisations, we will strive to maintain our leading position on the port state control performance tables and industry flag state indicators. But in these challenging times, we also understand the need for the maritime community to work together as we begin to move on from COVID-19 and we are looking forward to a future where the environment once again takes centre stage as we all work collaboratively towards sustainability and a rewarding future.”