Yacht registration with the Bahamas flag
Written by Simon Osborne
Last updated: 13/03/2017
With hundreds of islands, the Bahamas is a well-known destination for superyacht cruising and Bahamian culture, heritage and history have long been associated with the sea. A growing flag choice for registration outside the British red ensign group, the Bahamas is one of the world’s largest registers. Though there are more popular choices for superyachts such as the nearby Marshall Islands, the Bahamas has much to offer in regards to yacht registration.
Boats with the Bahamas flag
The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has a broad portfolio of ships registered to the flag and reported that only 2% of vessels registered are yachts. With expertise in offshore support and technical advice, many cargo ships, tankers and passenger ferries register with the Bahamas; 25% of the fleet were reported to be tankers and 13% ferries.
As well as a broad range of vessels, the flag also has a diverse fleet from all over the world. More than 10% of the fleet comes from North America, while the other traditional seafaring nations of Norway, Greece and the UK make up more than 40%, with Asia accounting for roughly 10% of the total.
Yachts and the Bahamas flag
The yachting industry has its own separate space and structure within the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA).
Yachts, despite differences in construction and operation from other vessels, are no exception. Therefore, the BMA has published the Bahamas Yacht Code to cover all the statutory requirements for yachts under its flag. This is based on the well-established Large Yacht Code, but slightly tailored to fit the requirements of discerning owners.
The Bahamas Yacht Code came into effect in early 2011, outlining a complete set of regulations, guidelines and requirements to meet the growing expectations of owners, managers and captains of Bahamian yachts.
Why the Bahamas?
The Bahamian flag has a good, longstanding reputation in the industry for being a quality state. It has been registering vessels for over 30 years and The Bahamas has a rich maritime heritage. According to the Bahamas Maritime Authority, it is one of the world's largest registers with over 50 million GT of ships flying the Bahamas flag across globe.
Young fleet rulings
Registering older vessels under the flag is actively discouraged by the BMA and yachts over about 12 years old will only be accepted if they meet exceptional criteria. The age of the vessel in question will depend on whether this is a benefit but largely speaking, it is seen as a plus. However if your yacht was built over a decade ago, other flags may be worth looking into.
Yacht and superyacht facilities
Unlike some popular registries, The Bahamas does have some quality port and marina services, repair and maintenance yards as well as dry-docking facilities. According to the BMA, they have ambitious expansion plans throughout The Bahamas’ archipelago for marina resort developments and larger boat slips to accommodate the world’s largest yachts.
IMO and ILO
The Bahamas has strong representation at both the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), giving owners direct input into the regulatory process and brings their knowledge of best practice to the attention of all policy makers, among other advantages.
According to the BMA, The Bahamas plays a leading role in shaping the technical, legal and administrative regulations produced by the IMO as well as being one of the IMOs largest financial contributors.
Favourable tax rules
The Bahamas does have an advantageous tax regime and does not impose any tax on income, capital gains or similar financial revenues.
Commercial and non-commercial changes
For owners who wish to change into, out of, or between “Commercial” and “Non-commercial” usage of their yachts, the BMA has a simple system of making an appropriate declaration of use that will be acknowledged and returned to the yacht for attachment to the vessel’s papers. This means that amending or renewing the registration document every time an owner wishes to change the declared status will no longer be necessary.
Fees can vary, but should be classed as competitive. There is a handy online fee calculator on the BMA website. Smaller yachts are looking at roughly 1,000 US dollars with larger superyachts looking at 2-3000 dollars.
For more information, contact the Bahamas Maritime Authority.