'We must bring back the magic' — PM opens CSA conference in Freeport

Prime Minister outlines Government plans to rejuvenate Island's Economy

By: Ashley Penn, The Freeport News

Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday revealed the government’s agenda to reignite the economy of Grand Bahama.Speaking at the launch of the 12th Caribbean Shipping Association Executive Conference, the Premier highlighted the plans to put Freeport on the map as a major shipping hub within the region.

“It is here in Grand Bahama that we are looking to truly revive a second city and create a place that offers something different to investors,” he told the gathered shipping executives.

“In particular we are keen to make Grand Bahama an international shipping hub. The shipping industry in vitally important to the growth and continued development of the Caribbean region. The same is true for the Bahamas, especially this island of Grand Bahama.“Currently, the Bahamian Government is doing many things to reinvigorate Freeport as the region’s to shipping hub. The government has made it a top priority to highlight the advantages that Grand Bahama will have in capitalizing on the expansion of the Panama Canal and the advantages of investing in this particular part of Bahamian paradise.

We must bring the magic back to Freeport

“Freeport, the country’s second city, has benefitted from many things that our capital has not. We must bring the magic back to Freeport and ensure that it achieves its full potential, particularly concerning its status as an integral part of the Caribbean shipping industry,” he continued.

As the country prepares for the historic milestone of 40 years of independence, Christie noted that the tourism industry will receive a boost, as a number of cruises will be coming on board to sail to the Bahamas.

It is a time of reflection and a time of action

He said, “The Bahamas celebrates its 40th Anniversary of Independence this July. It is a great milestone for this country. It is a time of reflection and a time of action. Part of that action, is the reinvigoration of our tourism product and expanding the opportunity for various industries to find an established home here.“I recently returned from New York where Norwegian Cruise Lines launched the new Norwegian breakaway fleet, which will have seven day round-trip cruises from New York to The Bahamas, Bermuda and other Caribbean destinations. This is a significant boon to cruise ship tourism for our region and for my country. This represents a direct increase in cruise ship tourists to New Providence.”

The increase of the yacht registry was also discussed as the Prime Minister noted that the government is working to stimulate growth of the maritime industry.“

Currently, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is working on further developing the yacht registry,” he said.“Our aim is to grow the yacht registry significantly. The Bahamas Maritime Authority has launched the Bahamas Yacht Code, providing yacht owners and captains with the right regulations to advise and aid the registration of all yachts under the Bahamas flag. The BMA is further developing the framework and policies to make us the ideal location to register yachts, both commercial and non commercial of any size. With the growth of the yacht registry, our maritime industry should have considerable added vigor. We hope that our maritime industry’s growth will position it to rival both the tourism and financial industries.”

Additionally, the upcoming expansion of the Panama Canal was another topic of focus, as Christie noted that Freeport’s world-class harbour facilities would be able to accommodate new business.

An ideal port to engage in business

“This expansion puts Freeport in a unique and advantageous position. Our deep-water harbour is the only port in this region that will be able to accommodate these new vessels. Our harbour is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world and it is the deepest in the region. This makes it an ideal port to engage in business,” Christie concluded.

The seminar is scheduled to commence over the course of the next two days to further discuss various matters pertaining to the shipping sector.