Minister of State Campbell confirms support for Merchant Shipping Bill

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By Betty Vedrine

Minister of State for Legal Affairs, Hon. Jomo Campbell, said he fully supports the Merchant Shipping Bill 2021, during his contribution in Parliament on Wednesday, 8th December. The bill seeks to regulate and develop merchant shipping and related services for The Bahamas. The bill encompasses both national and international standards, in addition to the state of affairs of the global maritime sector. Mr. Campbell said that the current pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the maritime industry, specifically shipping, fisheries, maritime tourism and the oil and gas sectors.

“Stakeholders in maritime activities (e.g. ship-owners, charterers, or operators, shippers or cargo owners; seafarers; ports, terminals and port services; and international organizations), felt the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic as rates for goods and energy spiked,” he said. “Also, the flaw of port efficiency was evident as vendors were unable to collect their cargo at ports due to the closure of warehouses. In addition, some ports operated with reduced workforce, which exacerbated cargo congestion.”

He added the the shortage of workers placed even more burden on global shipping, resulting in interruptions in transit, delays, and accumulation of cargo, causing interference to the supply chain, particularly affecting the movement of essential goods such as food and medical supplies. The Minister said the pandemic has also caused the loss of many jobs in the sector as a result of redundancies and administrative challenges.

As one of the world’s largest ship registry, The Bahamas is poised for further growth in the maritime industry. The Merchant Shipping Bill 2021, he believes, is one in a suite of laws that would revive the maritime transport sector and meet its international obligations.

“The main aim of the bill is to promote the growth of the maritime sector by incorporating best international standards and practices,”said Mr. Campbell.

Some additional components of the bill include the provision for more flexibility in the law, empowering the make regulations to give effect to the international maritime conventions and instruments and amendments. In addition, the bill seeks to increase tonnage by widening the eligibility criteria for ownership of ships. It would also introduce training, certification and recruitment and placement of seafarers and it would strengthen investigation and adjudication of claims arising out of collisions.

“In sum, this new modern and dynamic bill, retains the fundamental provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1976, while introducing new provisions to give immediate effect to international maritime convention.”