The island nation of Bahamas is situated in the Atlantic Ocean and is composed of 16 major islands, along with numerous smaller ones. It is one of the prosperous economies in America, with a strong tourism and financial services sector.
Agriculture and manufacturing are the other crucial sectors, however, most food is imported due to lack of cultivable area. The Bahamas has a rich and diverse cultural history and is an important maritime biodiversity region in the Atlantic.
Given its geographical location, the Bahamas engages in international trade through its major ports that not only promote commerce but are regarded as the world’s most beautiful cruise destinations. Tourism contributes more than 50% to the nation’s GDP.
The Bahamas has about 10 ports, most of them being cruise ports, but it also has two important container ports of the Caribbean.
Freeport Container Port
The Freeport Container Port is the main port of the Bahamas. It lies on the southwestern side of Grand Bahama Island. It comprises one of the world’s most beautiful passenger cruise terminals, a container handling area and a ship maintenance and repair facility. The shipyard is in the vicinity of the port and handles berth and container repairs.
The port is well-linked to the major world markets such as in the eastern coast of the US, Central and South America including the Caribbean. It is operated and managed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The Freeport Container Port became operational in 1997, with investments and developments supported by the port investor company Hutchison Ports.
It is also the Caribbean’s deepest and biggest container handling port and an important transhipment port of containerised bulk and general cargo. The port is equipped with the latest technologies such as modern terminal management and storage planning systems along with GPS tracking of containers to provide efficient and reliable container handling services.
The port covers an area of 72 hectares, with a draught of about 16.1 m and the docks are 1037 m long. It can accommodate ships weighing not more than 16,100 TEUs. Freeport Container port has 3 wharves with an average depth of 15 m, 755 reefer plugs, a storing space spanning 56 hectares with an annual handling capacity of 1.5 million TEUs. The port equipment includes 6 mobile cranes, 4 floating cranes, lifts with a capacity of 50 to 100 tonnes etc.
Apart from containers, the port also deals with all kinds of non-containerised heavy cargo. It also offers a cold storage facility for certain containers.
47 acres of additional land has been kept aside for the further expansion of the port and expansion of logistics services. Its productivity is the highest compared to the other ports in the region. It can handle the world’s largest container vessels.
The port has undergone numerous phases of expansions and after the completion of the expansion project, the port would comprise a total of 9 berths measuring 2750 m, with 27 dock cranes and an increased container handling capacity of 3.5 million TEUs.
Apart from being a container port, Freeport is also a popular tourist destination in the world. Millions of international tourists visit the port and the freeport city every year to experience the beautiful serene beaches with a pleasant climate, exquisite Hawaiian cuisine, and water sports such as scuba diving and snorkelling.
Port of Nassau
An exporter of mineral goods, salt, animal products, rum, fruits, vegetables, construction equipment, etc, port Nassau holds a special significance for the economy of the Bahamas. Apart from being a centre point of trade and businesses, the port and the capital city of Nassau are famous tourist destinations, attracting more than three million travellers from all over the world.
The Port of Nassau handles shipments of containerised and conventional cargo. It has links with ports in the region, and to North and South America.
It spans 56 acres and is close to the harbour of Nassau. The container port of Nassau comprises three terminal facilities, with a total berth length of more than 1000 meters. The port also has 60 reefer points.
The container handling terminal covers 32.30 acres, with a dock length of 365 m and deals with international LOLO and RORO ships and carriers.
The breakbulk facility spans 9.6 acres, with a dock length of 193 m and handles the nation’s RORO and bulk carriers involved in international maritime trade operations. The terminal has a 25,500 sq foot storage warehouse that functions as a storage space for cargo in transit.
Lastly, the bulk handling facility is spread over 7.40 acres with a 27 feet draft along the dock. The dock measures 243 m and handles shipments of cement, bitumen, minerals etc stored in the expansive storage yards belonging to this terminal. This terminal can store about 8000 tonnes of cement and 100,000 tonnes of dry bulk cargo.
The port has the latest port handling equipment such as 3 Liebherr cranes with a lifting capacity of 105 tonnes, 3 mobile cranes, 2 container cranes, 5 reach stackers, jockey trucks and chassis.
Port of Clifton Point
Clifton Point is considered to be a sub-port of the larger Nassau port, both located on New Providence island. Clifton point handles liquid bulk such as petroleum goods, Liquified petroleum gas, molasses, alcohol, oil and its products.
The Clifton Jetty is a relatively small breakbulk handling facility dealing with shipments of molasses and alcohol.
The tanker berth can accommodate carriers with a length not more than 193 m and a draft of 10 m, the maximum weight being 40,400 DWT approximately. Night berthing is allowed at this facility.
The LPG pier spans 2.5 hectares and is connected with the underwater LPG pipeline and discharges the LPG to the shore tankers. This facility comprises 32 tankers for LPG storage, with a capacity of storing 4.5 million litres or 2600 tonnes of LPG, with 22 tanks having a handling capacity of 114,000 litres and another 10 with a capacity of 210,000 litres.
Petroleum goods are transported throughout the Bahamas via coastal tankers that make around 600 port calls every year.
Prince George Wharf/ Nassau Cruise port
This port is exclusively a cruise terminal handling passenger vessels, cruise ships and pleasure crafts arriving at Nassau. This port can handle about 7 cruise ships at a time and is visited by a thousand vessels every year. The distance between the multiple landing piers is short and they are narrow, which results in crowding. Hence, the authorities plan to expand this cruise terminal. Numerous ferry boat facilities are situated near the cruise terminals that link Nassau with other neighbouring islands.
There is only one building at the port that provides assistance and also transportation, banking and postal services. The port expansion project began in 2019 and envisages the broadening of the landing piers, construction of port administration buildings, market complexes, restaurants, retail services etc near the port to increase the tourist flow and develop the port into one of the world’s finest cruise destinations.
Port of South Riding Point
The Bahamas Terminal, also known as the South Riding Point oil storage and transhipment facility lies in the Grand Bahamas Island. The South Riding Point terminal provides a majority of storage and transhipment services to the United States due to its proximity with the latter.
The terminal comprises two oil handling berths. The first berth handles oil tankers weighing about 60,000 to 500,000 DWT, with a draught of 26 m. The second berth can accommodate tankers weighing 36,000 to 160,000 DWT, with a maximum draught of 22m.
The terminal’s total storage capacity is more than 6 million barrels. The terminal handles about 1,365,000 tonnes of liquid cargo annually. The terminal comprises 10 huge storage tanks for keeping 6.80 million barrels of crude oil.
The port handles crude oil shipment but also earns through other sources like tug operations and collection of marine charges. Crude oil is transported from huge carriers to smaller ships and between different docks via pipelines. Oil is then shipped in small carriers because the US and middle east ports have a shallow entrance.
Port of Ocean Cay
Ocean Cay port is located on an artificial island spanning 95 acres. It is the biggest island in the Bahamas and close to Miami. Initially built in the 1950s it was used for aragonite sand mining. However, it was also used as a facility for handling LNG tankers, with facilities for handling ships weighing up to 85,000 tonnes. Recently, it has been given on a lease to MSC Cruises to build a Marine Reserve on the island.
The project outlines the construction of the latest port facilities and a shipping facility while focussing on the conservation of the marine ecosystem. The waters around this island are home to numerous coral colonies and endangered fish species. The port island offers various tourist attractions for marine enthusiasts such as boating, underwater diving, sailing etc.
The port infrastructure comprises a dock for berthing passenger ships and a landing pier. Thus, this port has not only benefited the Bahamas economically by creating more than 200 permanent jobs but also promoted eco-tourism.
Other ports and harbours
Cockburn Harbour Inlet
Cockburn Harbour is situated on the islands of Caicos. It is used for fishing activities and small cargo ships also dock in its harbour. It is an attraction for boating and sailing enthusiasts as it is well protected.
Port of Inagua Islands
The port at Inagua islands does not have a proper dock or trade facilities. Much of the harbour is filled with protruding reef formations. However, the export of salt is carried out in small vessels which is the economic mainstay of the islands. Around 5000 tonnes of salt is exported every day from this harbour. The port can accommodate ships weighing not more than 30,000 DWT with a draught of 1.5 m.
The Matthew Town Harbour
It is located in the Great Inagua islands. The harbour has 2 berths that can accommodate only three passenger ships at once however other port facilities such as electricity supply or water is not available.
It is another famous tourist destination located in Abaco islands, the third biggest city of the Bahamas. The harbour is easily accessible with beautiful marinas namely the boat harbour marina and Conch Inn Marina. It is a much-visited place by amateur boaters.
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Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.