Conference Examines ‘Most Vital Resource’

Feb 16, 2011

by Douglas B. Stevenson, Director, Center for Seafarers’ Rights

The Bahamas Maritime Authority and the Bahamas Ministry of the Environment recently sponsored the third annual Bahamas International Maritime Conference and Trade Show (BIMCATS 2011) in Freeport, Grand Bahama. More than 300 delegates from 41 countries attended the conference under the theme “The Mariner: Building on the Year of the Seafarer.”

The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham, officially opened BIMCATS 2011 emphasizing The Bahamas’ commitment to maintaining high-quality ships under its flag with top-quality seafarers operating them. Noting the theme of the conference, Ingraham highlighted the need to address the shortage of qualified seafarers.

Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director of the International Labour Standards Department at the International Labour Office in Geneva delivered the conference’s keynote address. She noted that The Bahamas has ratified the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006) and is committed to implementing its objectives of ensuring decent work conditions for seafarers on ships flying its flag. She emphasized the importance of the MLC, 2006 standards for seafarers’ living and working conditions in attracting skilled workers to seafaring careers. Dr. Doumbia-Henry predicted the MLC, 2006 would gain enough ratifications in 2011 to enable it to come into force in 2012.

Other world-class speakers addressed topics, including the MLC, 2006 seafarers’ welfare standards; industry challenges in implementing and complying with the MLC, 2006; class societies’ certification processes; and seafarers’ training and certification requirements.

I spoke about MLC, 2006 requirements to promote and establish shore-based seafarers’ welfare facilities, noting that most seafarers’ centers today are operated by voluntary Christian organizations affiliated with the International Christian Maritime Association. I concluded my remarks by challenging BIMCATS 2011 delegates to work together to establish a seafarers’ center in The Bahamas and have it up and running by the next BIMCATS in 2013. (Read my speech here.)