Blue Flag marinas good for tourism
Published: Jul 23, 2013
I recently had an opportunity to discuss the Blue Flag certification program for marinas with Earlston McPhee, director of sustainable tourism in the Ministry of Tourism.
If you want to set your country apart as a good steward of the environment, Blue Flag certification is a standard to seek after. The Bahamas proudly stands shoulder-to-shoulder with 48 countries around the world becoming a part of this voluntary eco-label certification system which has to date been awarded to at least 3,850 beaches and marinas.
In 1985, the award was born in France to recognize coastal municipalities that met specific criteria relating to water quality and sewage treatment. It is currently owned and operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which is a nonprofit and non-governmental organization.
Marinas wishing to achieve this status must meet criteria relating to environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management, safety and services.
SB: Why is the Blue Flag certification important to The Bahamas?
EM: The Bahamas selected the marina program to ensure that marinas operating in The Bahamas have as minimum a footprint as possible on the marine environment. We are an archipelago and as a result we have numerous marinas operating throughout The Islands of The Bahamas servicing hundreds of thousands of pleasure boats annually. The Blue Flag program introduces a strict environmental and service protocol to all certified Blue Flag marinas. One of our greatest tourist attractions is our clear crystal waters and the array of marine species which places our marine attractions second to none in the world. As stewards of these fragile resources, we must continue to develop and introduce effective management systems to protect these resources for current and future economic and social opportunities.
SB: Which local marinas have become certified thus far and what is the process?
EM: There are three marinas that are currently certified: Atlantis, Old Bahama Bay and Cape Eleuthera. Bimini Sands has completed the pilot phase and is awaiting inspection from the National Jury before recommendations are made to the International Jury in Denmark for Blue Flag certification. Marinas are invited to apply for certification, at which time local technicians will visit the marina and assist management in developing a gap analysis to determine where the gaps are in achieving blue flag certification. Our National Jury team members will then work collaboratively with the marinas to assist them in closing those gaps in time for certification.
SB: Why do investors buy in to this program?
EM: Firstly, the management of most marinas that are currently in the program have a commitment to environmental sustainability. Secondly, they see an opportunity to differentiate their business from others by enhancing the quality of service offered to their high end guests – for example, ensuring that in the event of a fire, there are sufficient fire extinguishers available, or in the event someone slips off the dock, there are adequate life rings. Hurricane, fire and oil spill plans are in place and members of staff are trained in the event there is an emergency, etc. This is a prestigious certification which marinas can market, demonstrating their commitment to service excellence, environmental responsibility and safety of their guests while at the marina. It’s about achieving a competitive edge and differentiating our destination from others.
In the future, we would like to see more marinas recognizing the value of this program and apply for certification.
• We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.