The British Virgin Islands is becoming an increasingly popular jurisdiction for aviation finance, not only in the private and corporate jet sectors, but also in the commercial aircraft sector.
Although commercial aircraft are generally not operated out of or registered in the British Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands is playing an important role in the structuring of international transactions to acquire, finance and lease aircraft.
i Registration of aircraft
The British Virgin Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. As such, the Register of Aircraft is governed by a UK statute, the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 (ANOTO). Air Safety Support International, a wholly owned subsidiary company of the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom, acts as the oversight regulatory body for the Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom in relation to aviation matters.
Aircraft can be registered in the British Virgin Islands. There are currently only five aircraft registered in the British Virgin Islands, all in the names of locally registered corporations. Requirements for registration of aircraft are fully set out in the ANOTO. This includes who is considered to be a qualified person for registration. Such qualified persons are:
- the Crown in right of Her Majesty’s government in the United Kingdom or in right of the government of the British Virgin Islands;
- United Kingdom nationals;
- Commonwealth citizens;
- nationals of any European Economic Area state;
- bodies incorporated in any part of the Commonwealth and that have their registered office or principal place of business in any part of the Commonwealth; or
- undertakings formed in accordance with the law of a European Economic Area state and that have their registered office, central administration on principal place of business within the European Economic Area.1
The UK government permits and supports the establishment and running of aircraft registers in overseas territories, provided that:
- the full cost associated with the register, including providing safety regulation, is met by the territory concerned;
- the territory makes provision to cover in full all liabilities that arise, or could arise, from the running of the register, both directly and indirectly; and
- the territory establishes a safety regulatory body empowered to regulate against legislation and requirements designed to implement the annexes to the Chicago Convention and:
- that has an appropriate and sustainable level of funding; and
- meets in the view of the UK Department for Transport and its technical advisers the requirements and guidance laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The register of aircraft forms the official public record relating to the registration of an aircraft and the particulars recorded in it are the only details that are publicly available. All other records relating to the owner, aircraft, etc, are treated as confidential.
The register of aircraft will include the following particulars:
- the registration certificate number;
- the registration mark assigned to it;2
- the name of the constructor of the aircraft and its designation;
- the aircraft serial number; and
- relevant dates, such as that of registration, change of ownership and cancellation of registration.
An aircraft registered in the British Virgin Islands can be operated commercially within the geographical boundaries specified in its air operating certificate (AOC). For the issue of an operator’s certificate, the organisation must have its principal place of business in the British Virgin Islands.3
1 Article 16(1) of the ANOTO.
2 The mark consists of five letters commencing with the nationality mark VP-L and followed by the two letters assigned to the specific aircraft.
3 Article 94 of the ANOTO.
This article was first published in The Aviation Law Review.