Maritime Authority Bill

A bill to establish the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands was unanimously passed into law by Legislative Assembly members last Thursday and Friday.

The Bill allows for a Maritime Authority to assume the responsibility for the operation previously conducted by the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry. Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson tabled the bill.

The law will take effect 1 July to coincide with the new fiscal year.

Mr. Jefferson reminded legislators in his introduction of the bill that the intention to form a Maritime Authority was announced in the 2002 Throne Speech.

Countries with the largest shipping registries in the world have moved to establish authorities, he said. It is sensible to give the Shipping Registry the tools it needs to meet the regulatory responsibilities it has and benefit from growth.

As an authority, the entity will have more credibility in dealing with clients, regional authorities and international organisations, Mr. Jefferson said.

He pointed out that there had been extensive private sector consultation before the bill was brought to the House.

The House debate on the Bill centred mostly on the wording of the proposed law.

Speaking first, Leader of Opposition Kurt Tibbetts said the Opposition could readily support the bill. In his contribution to the debate, Mr. Tibbetts queried a dozen or so specific clauses in the bill, explaining that he raised these matters for the purposes of clarity, or for Government to tidy up any ambiguity if it saw fit.

One concern Mr. Tibbetts had was for treatment of officers seconded from the regular civil service. The matter was dealt with by an amendment at the committee stage.

Cayman Brac and Little Cayman MLA Lyndon Martin said he was happy to rise in support of the bill.

Mr. Martin especially lauded the fact that a Caymanian, Joel Walton, would assume the role of chief executive officer of the Authority.

Having Caymanians at the head of statutory authorities is something Mr. Martin said he wanted to see more.

‘I’m sure we’ll see a continuation of this trend because I’m sure we’ll see a continuation of this Government, which is committed to Caymanising,’ he said.

Among the tangible benefits of the new Authority Mr. Martin spoke about were the marketing advantages of people around the world seeing the Cayman Islands red ensign on luxury yachts.

West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin said a critical point was the issue of the revenue Authority would create.

Mr. Anglin pointed out that there would also be knock-on flows of revenue created by the law, such as the fees for forming and maintaining the companies here that would hold title to the vessels.

One clause of the bill allowed for the board of directors of the authority to appoint the chief executive officer, something Mr. Anglin said only the Governor in Cabinet can do with many other statutory government authorities.

‘Perhaps this is the wave of the future, where we vest with the board the power to appoint the CEO.’

If this were indeed the wave of the future, Mr. Anglin said perhaps laws should be enacted with regard to all statutory authorities to ensure they were all structured in the same fashion.

Mr. Anglin also queried several specific sections in the bill, including some of the same ones Mr. Tibbetts queried.

Mr. Anglin strongly objected to a section of the bill that made a member of the Legislative Assembly or an official member of Cabinet ineligible for appointment as a director of the authority, something East End MLA Arden McLean agreed with when he rose to make his contribution to the debate.

That clause was later deleted from the bill at the Committee stage.

Mr. McLean said he supported the bill, partially because it furthered the maritime traditions of the Cayman Islands.

‘The sea is a very good training ground,’ said the former seaman. ‘You get to see the world and get paid to see it.

‘You also get to work along with people from so many other nationalities, and you learn to respect other people. That’s something I wish more of the young people had today,’ he said.

In making his reply, Mr. Jefferson noted that a committee stage amendment was being circulated, addressing the point of MLA or Cabinet members not being eligible to sit on the board of directors of the authority.

Mr. Jefferson also said the authority would set up a Category 1 type of shipping registry in international standards.

‘It is a high-quality and much sought out registry.’