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TOPIC: BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval.

BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval. 7 years 9 months ago #5199

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NO 'OPEN DOORS' FOR

$8BN-$10BN INDUSTRY

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

A POTENTIAL $8-$10 billion industry lies beneath Bahamian waters if its development is handled correctly, a local archaeological salvage expert yesterday warning against an 'Open Doors' policy that would allow foreign companies to leave this nation with the bulk of recovered artifacts and profits.

Nicholas Maillis, president of Long Island-based Maillis Marine Research & Recovery, urged the Government to mandate that foreign salvagers joint venture with Bahamian companies/teams on underwater explorations, thus ensuring at least some of the economic benefits remained here.

Warning that underwater archaeological exploring and salvaging could "lure gangsters" if the proper laws and regulations, and their enforcement, were not in place, Mr Maillis told Tribune Business that the industry's proper development "could hit the green button" for the Bahamas' tourism development.

By placing recovered artifacts of historical significance in a National Museum, he suggested it would add a cultural/historical niche to the Bahamian tourism product, something that should have been "done a long time ago" but has been missing for years.

"It could turn our town into one of the most attractive historical destinations in the world," Mr Maillis told Tribune Business of a Bahamian underwater salvaging/archaeological exploration industry.

"We're sitting on New World treasures and New World history. It's all here, every page known to man. You can't have a museum big enough to put in what's out there. Every page is out there in our waters, and can be brought to the surface, cleaned and presented to the public, making the Bahamas more attractive.

"It could hit the green button that's needed to turn this place into a very attractive place for people coming to see what they wanted to see. If handled right, it could make us jump forward to where we should have been a long time ago - a tourist destination with something worthwhile to see.

"It could definitely give us a lift. The Government is going to get some dollars to help fix the Out Islands, the roads, maybe build a bigger prison, who knows."

A 25-year industry veteran, Mr Maillis said he had salvaged centuries-old ships such as the former brig, Bullpic, which sank in the Great Bahama hurricane of 1866.

The salvaging took place off north Eleuthera in 1992. He and the other salvagers split the proceeds, 75/25 in their favour, with the Government, and their efforts recovered "enough artifacts to fill up a whole corner of a National Museum".

And Mr Maillis told Tribune Business: "There is over $8 billion of stuff lost in our waters, and that's only the stuff recorded. We see anywhere between $8-$10 billion, from what we know is recorded as lost."

Apart from known wreck sites and those recorded in historical records, the Bahamas had also been a well-known base and refuge for pirates, meaning the number of potential exploration sites was likely to be considerably more.

However, Mr Maillis said he and his sons, who themselves have spent 10 years in the industry, had not been consulted by the Government on the recently-passed amendments to the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Act, which lifted the 15-year moratorium on salvaging in Bahamian waters.

While still attempting to obtain a copy of the revised Act via their attorneys, Mr Maillis and his sons, in an e-mail to Tribune Business, raised concerns about it creating an 'open doors' approach that might ignite "an international gold rush on Bahamian waters", ultimately stripping this nation of its historical artifacts and associated income.

Questioning the 75/25 split between the salvager and the Government, especially where the former was a foreign company, Mr Maillis and his sons told Tribune Business: "In an industry potentially worth billions to an economically struggling nation, we question the logic in allowing 75 per cent of our nation's heritage to become the legal property of a foreign salvage company.

"Not only is this a great loss of our cultural heritage, but there is an almost certain likelihood that commercial profits generated by foreign salvage companies would ultimately leave our country, and thus also create an economic loss. If foreign salvage companies are permitted to be involved in this industry for certain reasons, they should be required to be in a joint venture with a Bahamian archeological salvage company."

In his interview with Tribune Business, Mr Maillis suggested the Government mandate that foreign salvagers joint venture with trained Bahamian underwater exploration and archaeological teams, who could spot any wrongdoing.

"The Government does not understand the business, does not know how it should be, the good and bad points," Mr Maillis told Tribune Business. "They don't know what's out there and which direction to turn to. There's a lot of untrustworthy foreign companies out there.

"This business does lure great wealth. That's how the stuff got there in the first place, and in the past 25 years I've been approached by numerous people, some with good intentions, some blunt gangsters and crooks who are out to get something, whether it's there or not.

"It does attract ill-minded people, and the concern is that if these [foreign] groups come in, you don't know who they are. Local teams should be trained to go on these vessels to see if crafty business is being done."

In their e-mail to Tribune Business, Mr Maillis and his sons called on the Government to designate the archaeological salvaging of historic shipwrecks within the Bahamas' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as an industry reserved for Bahamian-owned companies only.

They argued that raising the financing for such ventures was, unlike the resort industry, well within the means of Bahamians. "I know there are a lot of foreign teams out there wanting to work in the country, and take the opportunity away," Mr Maillis told this newspaper. "They need to mandate joint ventures; that these people join with local teams in joint ventures.

"If it's going to be leaving the country, well, what good is it? It's only helping the foreign companies. If they're allowed to work, they have to choose a Bahamian team they merge with to share the profits and share the work. They shouldn't just get up and go with it."

Mr Maillis, though, emphasised that he was not seeking to be protectionist and exclude foreign companies from participating in a Bahamian underwater salvage/archaeological exploration industry.

"We're not trying to block anyone coming in," he added. "But it [the proceeds] should be distributed in that territory where the work is done."

In their e-mail, Mr Maillis and his sons were more forthright. They said: "While we applaud the Government on its foresight in addressing the vast potential of the underwater archeological salvage industry, we are deeply concerned that interest is being raised to the point where an indiscriminate 'open- doors' policy could result in an international gold-rush on Bahamian waters, instigating negative international criticism and thus facilitating the industry's return to a state of moratorium.

"Unlike the high value 'mega' and 'anchor' resorts in our country, which depend exclusively on immense foreign investment, this high value industry is well within the reach of Bahamian capital investment capabilities.

"There are interested Bahamians who have a love for the maritime cultural history of our nation, knowledge and expertise in this field, valuable wreck-sites, and the vision for the development of an industry of historical preservation and education in the Bahamas. We therefore strongly suggest that like the real estate, fishing and retail industries, historic shipwreck archeological salvage be allocated as an industry reserved for Bahamians."

Mr Maillis yesterday warned that apart from gold, all artifacts were eventually worn away by the environment if they were not eventually retrieved and put on display.

Hurricanes passing through the Bahamas were another potential destroyer of wreck sites. And, after these storms had gone, many artifacts lay exposed, attracting foreign salvagers who came into the country and "picked them off" before returning home, leaving the authorities none the wiser.

"This is picking paradise," Mr Maillis added ruefully.

Published On:Friday, November 25, 2011
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Re: BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval. 7 years 9 months ago #5200

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$200M WRECK FURORE SPURRED SALVAGE BAN
Last Updated on Sunday, 04 December 2011 08:58


By NATARIO McKEsNZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

PROFITS from underwater exploration and salvaging could provide the Government with a new revenue stream and create additional employment for Bahamian divers, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture telling Tribune Business that amendments to the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Act were intended to create better governance of the sector and ensure economic benefits for this nation.

Charles Maynard's remarks came on the heels of statements by local archaeological salvage expert, Nicholas Maillis, president of Long Island-based Maillis Marine, who recently told Tribune Business that a potential $8-$10 billion industry lies beneath Bahamian waters if its development is handled correctly. There was previously a 15-year moratorium on salvaging in Bahamian waters.

Mr Maynard said: "There was a wreck that really caused the moratorium to be put in place in the first place, because it was said that $200 million worth of items were recovered and the Government never got its fair share.

"So, realizing that we didn't have the proper regime to govern the industry, we put the moratorium in place. An attraction of that particular site is that people go to dive and see the remnant of what is left of the structure because of the fact that it was a $200 million haul. It made it something that divers are excited to go and explore."

The minister added: "We're going to find opportunities like that. We're going to find people who want to see artifacts in a museum setting. We are also going to find persons who are going to get licenses to do recovery, and are going to find some things that they are going to be able to sell on the international market.

"The Government's share is going to be substantial. It's going to create a new revenue stream. It's going to create a tremendous amount of employment because that kind of work is labour intensive. Divers and the rest would be able to get employment outside of their regular lucrative season. It's really one of those things that's going to have an affect on various parts of the economy."

The amendments to the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Act seek to update the law relating to the salvage and recovery of underwater cultural heritage that has long been an overlooked aspect of the Bahamas.

Mr Maynard said: "The recent amendments we have brought in Parliament to the Antiquities Act were done so that we could have new regulations, and create a new regime for how the industry would run.

"We actually created new laws to govern the industry. It has been passed in the House and is expected to be debated in the Senate this week."

As it stands, the Government has proposed a 75 to 25 per cent ratio, the majority share, measured by points, to the excavator and the lesser to the government.

Mr Maynard, though, said the sharing agreement will be conditional, as the Government would get more depending on the cultural value of the artifact.

The Bill adds: "Both government and licensee to agree in writing that government's retention of artifacts important to the protection of the national patrimony may exceed government's 25 per cent share in certain years, with the imbalance to be corrected by future divisions."

Courtesy The Tribune
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Re: BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval. 7 years 9 months ago #5201

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SALVAGING A 'MULTI MILLION' INDUSTRY
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Published On:Thursday, November 17, 2011

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

A LEADING Bahamian law firm yesterday told Tribune Business that an wreck salvaging industry worth potentially "hundreds of millions of dollars" might have been unleashed by law changes passed this week, disclosing that it had been contacted by "three-four major salvage groups" already.

The Bahamian law firm, well-known to Tribune Business but requesting anonymity because it wanted to protect clients still in the infancy of their exploration discussions, said amendments to the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Bill passed by the House of Assembly had paved the way for a sector that could create numerous tourism and cultural spin-offs.

The firm was meeting with one party interested in salvage/excavation opportunities in Bahamian waters in Miami yesterday, and said it was "sure" the amendments - which lay out the statutory framework governing such operations in this nation's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) - would "encourage a broad-based, viable and sustainable industry, centred in, and around, the northern Bahamas, Little Bahama Bank and the island of Grand Bahama, in particular".

Confirming it had suggested the 75/25 profit split between excavator and government, based on points, for each artifact discovered in Bahamian waters, a top partner at the law firm, speaking to Tribune Business on condition of anonymity, said: "We've had a number of calls from international treasure salvagers who are keenly interested in salvaging the Bahamas, and have been keen to do so for many years.

"This interest goes back for at least five years. We've heard of at least two wrecks. We'd say it could possibly be an industry in the hundreds of millions. It has terrific touristic and cultural potential.

"We've already had interest from three or four major groups, and we think more will come. There's said to be 200 wrecks around Grand Bahama alone."

Wreck exploration and salvaging, and the prospect of finding valuable artifacts, could be another potential economic sector for a Bahamian economy desperately in need of diversification and new revenue/employment sources.

A moratorium on such activities had been in place for several years, and that - coupled with uncertainty over the legal, regulatory and profit-sharing regime governing it - had deterred major international salvagers from dipping their toe into the Bahamian market.

Given this nation's position at the heart of the Caribbean, Atlantic and Florida waterways, and rich history (having been discovered by Christopher Columbus, and later used as a piracy bolt-hole), it would seem likely there are numerous wrecks in deep-lying Bahamian waters.

"It could have great touristic spin-offs and job spin-offs, not only on the boats," the law firm's leading partner told Tribune Business. "You set up a processing centre, where you clean and certify artifacts. That's an industry by itself."

The attorney said many Bahamians had made money by salvaging wrecks they knew about, referring to one now-deceased Abaconian who had known the whereabouts of a major wreck, and had been able to recover gold coins and other valuable artifacts. That, though, had reached the stage where major heavy-duty equipment was required to complete any further salvage.

The senior attorney also old Tribune Business had had been told that "in Switzerland, they're constantly auctioning Bahamian artifacts, which have been stolen from our country".

As a result, the legislative amendments to the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Bill have been designed to protect potentially valuable Bahamian artifacts that may be recovered, enabling them to be retained for museums to protect this nation's cultural heritage - as well as serving as a possible tourist attraction.

The 75/25 split is conditional, with the Government getting more depending on the artifact's cultural value - and deciding those that were valuable - upfront.

The Bill states: "Both government and licensee to agree in writing that government's retention of artifacts important to the protection of the national patrimony may exceed government's 25 per cent share in certain years with the imbalance to be corrected by future divisions."

Meanwhile, the Bahamian law firm said it awaited the Bill's accompanying regulations, which were needed to "govern this industry and avoid the potential abuse and mistreatment of the Bahamas' natural resources".

"Our country has previously learned that should we not protect our assets they will remain subject to today's pirates, much in the form and not the appearance, of days of old," the law firm added.

"In our reading and understanding of the Bill, we are grateful to note that the Government of the Bahamas has ensured that Bahamians and Bahamian flagships may now lawfully explore and discover underwater cultural heritage artifacts and items without penalty or sanction.

"We are very much aware that there remains the needed or required application and approval process to further survey and/or recover and/or salvage these items and artifacts comprising any underwater cultural heritage."
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Re: BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval. 7 years 9 months ago #5224

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SENATE DEBATE


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Re: BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval. 7 years 8 months ago #5471

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I received word the Moratorium has been lifted. Lease applications are being reviewed. It seems the greatest number of applications are for the Little Bahama Bank, North of Freeport GB. Dell
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Re: BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval. 7 years 8 months ago #5517

Morning Dell, do you have a good source on that information? I was told the the Bahamian Senate would not bring the issue up for vote until sometime after January 2012.
However I am sure that as soon as the news hit the streets the applications started showing up in the mail a couple of days later.

LP
To Swim Is Human, To Dive Is SUBLIME
To bag a bug in total darkness . . . . is just the next step.
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Re: BAHAMAS MAY LIFT MORATORIUM. Waiting for Senate approval. 7 years 8 months ago #5819

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LP, I'm sorry I missed your post. Yes, the information is from good authority. The Senate passed the bill to lift the moratorium. I understand there are more than 100 applications for salvage leases the AG is sorting through. Group I am associated with is well established in the Bahamas, and probably has the best chance of obtaining a lease. With a lease in hand , hopefully we can raise the money for the operation. Dell
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