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Bahamas gets boost to ship registry

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Bahamas gets boost to ship registry

By MARTELLA MATTHEWS, Guardian Business Reporter

Royal Caribbean has transferred six of its ships previously registered in Norway to The Bahamas. As a result of this move, all 19 Royal Caribbean International ships and the nine ships of the sister brand, Celebrity Cruise lines now sail under the Bahamian Flag.

According to the company, the decision was made after a year of discussion with union representatives, the Norwegian government and the cruise line's employees.

The company explained that having the company's ships registered in two countries required it to adhere to differing marine, hiring, compensation, benefits and medical certification standards. It is hoped that moving the ship's operation to one flag would streamline the company's management processes and increase its level of competitiveness.

"Since the day our company was founded, we have been proud of our strong ties to Norway, and transferring the registry of six ships will not change that fact," said Royal Caribbean Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Fain. "However, the competitive nature of the cruise industry is intense, and we must ensure our competitiveness throughout the business."

The company also noted that should registration with Norway regain its competitiveness, it would revisit the flagging issue. Royal Caribbean will continue to use some of the services employed in Norway namely that of the Norwegian classification society, Det Norske Veritas, which issues certificates for the company's 19 vessels.

The move by the global cruise vacation company will affect close to 400 Royal Caribbean shipboard employees currently covered by collective bargaining agreements required by the government of Norway. The current compensation levels for these employees will remain the same or above for a two-year transition period that will end in January 2007.

Royal Caribbean and the Celebrity Cruise brands have 29 ships many of which frequent Nassau, Freeport and its private island Coco Cay. The company has plans to introduce another ship in 2006.

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