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Government mulls making shipping registry a quango

Bermuda's shipping registry could be turned into a quango, it was revealed on Friday.

The news came as Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell announced that the UK had lifted a ban on the size of the Bermuda-flagged fleet, imposed two years ago due to safety concerns.

Mr Crockwell, in response to questions from Opposition MP Lawrence Scott, said: “The Government is looking at various options — perhaps not privatisation, but maybe looking at this being a quango.”

He added afterwards: “Because of the revenue potential of the shipping registry, the model that might be most advantageous for the Government might be a quango model.”

But he said: “Nothing has been decided — this is all in its infancy.”

Quangos are Government-financed, but operate independently.

Earlier, Mr Crockwell told MPs that the embargo on new registrations had been lifted after a follow-up inspection by UK auditors of the Department of Maritime Administration found it had reached the required standards.

Mr Crockwell said: “This will now open the doors wide for the registry to promote and grow in its size and tonnage, earning additional revenue for the country.”

At the time of the 2010 inspection, Bermuda had a total of 180 major ships on its registry books.

Mr Crockwell added the ban was imposed due to “legitimate and valid” concerns over the Island's ability to monitor the ships that fly its flag.

He said: “They were concerned with the safety of life at sea, safety of ships, the passengers who travel on Bermuda ships, pollution prevention from ships and matters relating to maritime security on board Bermuda ships, all of which are fundamental to operating a safe international maritime administration,”

Mr Crockwell explained that in order to let ships fly the respected Red Ensign, Bermuda had to meet a series of international standards signed up to by the UK.

He said: “At the time the UK audit was conducted, Bermuda was a number of years behind in enacting the national legislation required for updating with the International Maritime Conventions,

“This deficiency, identified by the UK auditors, was a major concern on the UK Government and was one of the reasons for imposing the embargo on growth of the registry.”

Mr Crockwell added that Island was aware of a lack of surveyors to police the Bermuda-flagged fleet and additional resources were found to recruit more qualified personnel and salaries were boosted to come into line with those elsewhere.

The Minister added that a satellite office in the UK had also been backed by Cabinet, allowing surveyors to work from there to service Bermuda-flagged ships in British and European ports.

Opposition MP Lawrence Scott asked if Bermudians were undergoing training to become ships' surveyors.

Mr Crockwell said: “There has been a dearth of surveyors. We have made modifications to try and make it more attractive. I do not believe that Bermudians are being trained in this area.”

But he added there were a number of Bermudians involved in the department and “doing very well”.

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Published March 25, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 25, 2014 at 12:37 am)

Government mulls making shipping registry a quango

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