Several changes have been made at the Port Department since the implementation of the COVID-19 Emergency Powers Order came into effect in March. These changes affect the daily operations at the agency. According to Minister of Transport & Local Government, Hon. Dion Foulkes, the new protocols were put in place in an effort to maintain the required social distancing protocols in order to provide a safe environment for both staff and customers. During his address to the nation, Minister Foulkes encouraged customers to use the email link: firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a Port officer regarding Port procedures for registration and licensing.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to develop an online solution to allow customers to complete and submit Port applications online became even more apparent,” said Minister Foulkes. “As a result, the Port Department in collaboration with the Department of Transformation and Digitization (DTAD), created the first phase of its online solution.”
He explained that first phase allows customers to complete applications to register a private or commercial vessel of any size, register a dock or other marine structure; apply for a foreign charter license; register a private or commercial watercraft (i.e. jet ski, banana boat, parasail, etc.); apply for an ‘A’ or ‘B’ class Master’s license, and apply for a ‘D’ class Operator’s license. Customers will be able to upload supporting documents with each application, and receive email updates from Port officers on the status of their application.
In the second phase of the online solution, he said customers will be able to make payments online. He also noted that the long awaited International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Compliance Unit was established on 22nd October, 2019 to provide comprehensive and effective ISPS compliance oversight of the international port and ship facilities throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. “The ISPS Compliance Unit currently serves as the recognized security organization of The Bahamas and is charged with the responsibility of random spot checks, initial endorsement and statement of compliance renewal inspections as well as ensuring that all ISPS compliant entities maintain the highest standard of ISPS compliance,” said Minister Foulkes.
The Minister also reported that during the lockdown, the Potters Cay Dock facility operated with minimum staff between the hours of 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. A Port Officer, however, remained in place at all times to verify the number of vessels present and to allocate space for vessels to dock. He said that there are twenty-two (22) Mail Boats that service the Family Islands. Substitute vessels serve routes to Cat Island, Fresh Creek, Andros, George Town Exuma and Clarence Town, Long Island.
“It is particularly noteworthy that the mail boats continue to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and deliver the mail and freight to the Family Islands, on time, to help our people during the Emergency Order periods,” he said. “It is also noteworthy that passenger travel and inter-island travel went relatively well with Owners and Operators complying with the Orders. The freight intake increased despite the national lockdowns and the Operators complied with the Competent Authority by transporting passengers for medical emergencies only.”
Currently, he pointed out that a weekly mail boat schedule is prepared for the general public and interested persons may contact the Dock Master’s Office located at Potter’s Cay Dock between the hours of 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday.