Shipping Law

Bahamas Shipping Law

The Bahamas Maritime Authority

The Bahamas Maritime Authority (“the Authority”) is a semi-autonomous statutory corporation that was formed in 1995 in order to establish an efficient and responsive administrative vehicle for registration of vessels and the enforcement of safety requirements. The Authority has offices in Nassau, London and New York and an agency in Tokyo. The Authority represents The Bahamas at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Authority’s chief objective is to attract high quality tonnage while concurrently maintaining the highest international standards of safety and operation.

The Bahamas Ship Register

As of the 31st October 2001 The Bahamas has the third largest ship registry in the world with some 1,500 vessels registered exceeding 35 million gross tonnage. Moreover, the Authority has just recently exceeded Japan as the third largest financial contributor to the IMO. The largest percentages of ships on the register are tankers, and general cargo ships together amounting to approximately 38.6 per cent of vessels registered.

Ship Registration

Ship registration may take place in Nassau, London or New York.  Registration documents can also be processed through the BMA’s Tokyo agency.  Vessels of 1,600 net registered tonnage or more and not more than 12 years old at the date of registration may be registered without regard to the nationality of the owner. Vessels more than 12 years old may not be registered without a very detailed initial survey. It is not necessary that a Bahamian company be registered as the owner where the owner is not a Bahamian national. This qualifies The Bahamas Registry as an “open registry”. Eight classification societies have been appointed to carry out statutory surveys on behalf of the Authority – they are as follows:-

·  American Bureau of Shipping

·  Bureau Veritas

·  Det Norske Veritas

·  Germanischer Lloyd

·  Korean Register of Shipping

·  Lloyd’s Register of Shipping

·  Nippon Kaiji Kyokai

·  Registro Italiano Navale

A vessel transferring its registration will not be required to be re-surveyed if it is in possession of valid safety certificates issued by one of the appointed classification societies.


Foreign shipping groups that take ownership of a vessel through a Bahamian corporation will not pay any corporate income or dividend taxes or capital gains tax on the sale of the vessel or shares of the holding company of the vessel under the laws of The Bahamas.

Bahamas Maritime Authority

Registration And Annual Fees – 2010

Net Tonnage Registration Fee
Annual Fee
2,000 or less$2,000$2,552
2,001 to 5,000$1 per ton$2,090 plus $0.20 per ton
5,001 to 25,000$0.9 per ton$2,090 plus $0.17 per ton
Over 25,000$22,500$2,090 plus $0.17 per ton
Non-commercial Yachts$2,000$700
$150 Radio Licence 

$60 Certificate of Registry

Commercial Yacht fees are to be calculated on net tonnage.

Registration of Vessels during Out of Office Hours – $800 (under 4 hours) $1600 (+4 hours)


A scheme of discounts, legislated by Parliament, has been introduced with regard to the initial registration fee.

Number of Vessels Discounts available
New (under 5 years)One Third
3 – 9 (under 12 years)One Third
3 – 9 (over 50,000 total net tonnage)++One Third
10 or more (under 12 years)50%
10 or more (over 100,000 total net tonnage)++50%
20 or more (under 12 years)60%
20 or more (over 200,000 total net tonnage)++60%

NOTE:  Discounts are not applied to vessels with a net tonnage of less than 500.

Multiple registrations must occur within a period of 12 months and in the same ownership.
++ all ships over 12 years old require a pre-registration inspection.

For more information visit the shipping section of the Lennox Paton website.