The Ministry of Finance concluded an agreement with the OMNI Financial Group and the Association of Bahamas Marinas (OMNI/ABM) to launch a digital payment solution for the collection of charter fees from mega yachts and other charter operators in The Bahamas.
“This development is extremely significant as we have traditionally seen a lot of revenue leakage in the charter operator space. As a government we are strengthening our enforcement mechanisms while we are also enhancing the ease of doing business. Now, charter operators have no excuse. We have a convenient online solution for the payment of fees due to the government for their commercial operations in our waters,” said Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Finance.
“The potential revenue yield from charter operations is tremendous. The Ministry of Finance estimated there is about $50 million in uncollected revenue from this boating segment and in keeping with the government’s commitment to strengthen tax collection and enforcement for existing taxes, we have accelerated our digital transformation efforts to make this happen,” said Minister Thompson.
The public/private partnership has led to a milestone achievement in an area that has long been in need of an upgrade. The new payment solution launched by the OMNI/ABM collaborative is called “SeaZPass” and is the first of several digital solutions the group will provide.
“The new platform with OMNI/ABM will help to increase boating traffic and economic activity at a time when the country badly needs it. We have managed the spread of the Corona virus and our travel policies create a safe and attractive environment, so charter operators are clamoring to send business to The Bahamas. Boats that would typically be cruising around Europe and other tourism hot spots are now parked around the East Coast, and The Bahamas is the natural best place for them to get away,” said Dionisio D'Aguilar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation.
The Bahamas Port Department is responsible for the issuing of charter licenses and the collection of charter fees. The Ministry of Finance has been working with the Ministry of Transport and Local Government Port Department to implement this new system with OMNI/ABM.
Commander Berne Wright, Acting Port Controller said: “Via the agreement between the Ministry of Finance, OMNI Financial Group and the Association of Bahamas Marinas, charterers that wish to engage in foreign yacht charters throughout The Bahamas now have the opportunity to submit charter fees online. We acknowledge the capacity for revenue increase via the online payment method, and we are committed to providing registration and licencing processes which will further the ease of doing business at the Port Department.”
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Local Government, Antoinette Thompson, indicated that “this online facility for the Port Department represents another objective achieved in the Government's mandate to modernize and transform the delivery of services for the Bahamian people; particularly as it relates to agencies such as the Port, Road Traffic and Post Office Departments.”
Peter Maury, ABM President also intimated that: “The ABM is proud to be able to assist the Government as part of its digital transformation. This is the start of our collaboration as we are currently working with the Ministry of Finance and relevant agencies to introduce online payment and processing for charter licenses, cruising permit and fishing licenses at a later date. We attended a boat show in Florida last week to introduce the charter fee online portal, and the boating community was very relieved to see progress is finally being made with the government’s various digital solutions,” he further stated.