The Bahamas' Shipping Registry

It is the country's goal to become the world's largest ship registry over the next decade, and ship owners of all nationalities are welcome to fly The Bahamas flag.

Ship registration is a relatively new business in The Bahamas, yet the country has grown from less than one million gross tons to be the world's fifth largest fleet in little more than a decade. Since the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1976, more than 1,500 vessels, representing over 25 million gross tons, have chosen to register here. Many of the most respected international ship-owning companies fly the Bahamian flag, including Exxon International, Maersk Line, Teekay Shipping, and Chevron. Some of the luxury vessels registered include the ships of Norwegian Cruise Lines and Holland-America Cruises; others are cargo steamers, frigates, freighters, tankers and tugboats.

The Bahamas' success as a marine centre is due to a number of factors:

  • It has long-standing political stability and a highly-respected judicial system.

  • It has a favourable business climate and world-class banking services.

  • It is strategically positioned between North and South America.

  • It is world renowned for holiday travel, attracting millions of visitors annually.

  • Both Nassau and Freeport have fully-equipped, modern harbours, making it a prime destination for cruise ships.

  • The Bahamas is a member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and adheres to its principal safety conventions.
The commitment of the Bahamian Government to make the registry the most responsible available is demonstrated by the fact that any foreign-owned ship is eligible to be registered in The Bahamas, provided that it is under twelve years old, is over 1,600 net registered tons (NRT), and engaged in international trade. Vessels of more than twelve years of age may also be approved for registration, subject to a special condition survey.


The requirements for Bahamian registration are that the vessel be engaged in "foreign going trade," weigh 1,600 tons or more, and be under 12 years of age. Vessels more than 12 years old may also be approved for registration, subject to a successful condition survey conducted by one of seven delegated Classification Societies: ABS, BV, DNV, GL, LRS, NKK, or RINA. Special consideration is being given to owners of small vessels through a reduction of tariffs and fees.

Competitive/Simple Fees

The Bahamas offers competitive registration fees:
  • US$1.20 per net registered ton for vessels of 5,000 net registered tons or less.

  • US$1.10 per net registered ton for vessels of 5,001 net registered tons or more.
The annual tonnage dues are 10% of the NRT, plus $1,500 for ships under 25,000 NRT. For ships over 25,000 NRT, the fee is $0.11 per NRT, plus $1,500.


The operations and income associated with Bahamas Flag vessels are entirely tax-free, as are capital gains on the sale of vessels. Foreign-owned vessels of more than 150 GRT are also exempt from Bahamas customs duties and documentary stamp taxes, whether they call at local ports or not.

Crewing Flexibility

Foreign officers and crew members may serve on Bahamian-registered vessels provided that the officers hold foreign professional certification acceptable to The Bahamas Maritime Authority and the crew possess national certification which conforms to Standards of Training, Certification and Watching (STCW) regulations.

Survey & Certification

Shipowners can transfer foreign-registered vessels under twelve years old to the Bahamian flag without a survey. Such vessels would be required to have a safety inspection within six months of first registration, and thereafter annually. The safety inspections are conducted by a comprehensive network of nautical inspectors in over 300 ports throughout the world, who are authorised by the Bahamas Government for this purpose.

Statutory surveys and the issue of statutory certificates may be carried out by one of the seven classification societies approved for the purpose: ABS, BV, DNV, GL, LRS, NKK, and RINA. These arrangements reflect The Bahamas' long commitment to the maintenance of stringent standards of maritime safety.

The Bahamas Maritime Authority

Established on July 1, 1995, The Bahamas Maritime Authority BMA), with its headquarters in London, is a semi-autonomous, government-owned corporation, specifically designed to be responsive to the needs of the maritime market place. While the BMA will be self-funding from revenues generated from within, the government has allocated US$1 million 'seed money' to expedite a number of enhancements to present operations. Guided by advice from leading shipowners, the BMA is increasing staff, streamlining registry procedures, and instituting improvements in support systems.

The BMA's focus is on:

  • ensuring that standards are maintained on Bahamian Flag vessels at a level sufficient to ensure the highest reputation of the Bahamian fleet with port states;

  • continuing the proven flexibility of manning vessels, while ensuring that standards of certification and competency remain commensurate with STCW;

  • providing technical support to ensure that questions concerning the technical facets of Flag requirements are answered in a prompt, courteous and helpful manner;

  • facilitating ease of registration and subsequent mortgage transactions for all ships;

  • ensuring prompt and effective casualty investigations; and

  • ensuring that exemplary contingency planning is available to respond to incidents which may occur on Bahamian Flag vessels.

For further information on ship registration in The Bahamas, including rates and regulations, contact:
  • Bahamas Maritime Authority
    P.O. Box N4679
    Nassau, N.P., The Bahamas
    Tel: 242-394-5022
    Fax: 242-394-5023


    Bahamas Maritime Authority
    10 Chesterfield Street
    London W1X 8AH
    Tel: (171) 290-1500
    Fax: (171) 290-1540

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