I INTRODUCTION

As the British Virgin Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, registration of aircraft in the British Virgin Islands is governed by a UK statute, the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013. Air Safety Support International, a wholly owned subsidiary company of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, acts as the oversight regulatory body for the United Kingdom's overseas territories in relation to aviation matters.

Air Safety Support International has powers under the UK Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013. In addition, the BVI Airports Authority (the Authority), a statutory organisation of the government of the British Virgin Islands, was incorporated in 2005 to oversee the effective and efficient operation of all airports in the British Virgin Islands. The objectives of the Authority include, inter alia:

  1. to acquire, own, operate, control, manage, develop, administer and maintain the international airport and any extension thereof, and any designated airport in the territory as a commercial undertaking in a manner that recognises its role in the first instance as an international airport and for the benefit of the economy of the territory;
  2. to provide and maintain, on a commercial basis, facilities and services for air transport and such other facilities and services as are necessary or desirable for, or in connection with, the international airport or any designated airport;
  3. to collect such dues and charges as the company may be authorised by an enactment to collect; and
  4. to use, develop and manage, on a commercial basis, all lands vested in, transferred or leased to the company.

The relevant European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approvals and Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements (OTARs) under the UK Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 apply to air carrier operations.

II LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR LIABILITY

The principal domestic legislation is the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013, as amended, and the Mortgaging of Aircraft and Aircraft Engines Act 2011.

i International carriage

The BVI is not a signatory (or a party by extension from the UK) to the Rome Convention, the Geneva Convention, the Chicago Convention or the Cape Town Convention.

In relation to the Chicago Convention, however, certain provisions of that Convention with which the United Kingdom is obliged to ensure that its overseas territories (including the BVI) comply are reflected in the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013.

The BVI is, by Order-in-Council from the United Kingdom, a party to the New York Convention.

ii Internal and other non-convention carriage

There is no national or regional legislation governing liability in respect of non-convention carriage.

iii General aviation regulation

The relevant EASA approvals and OTARs under the UK Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 govern the liability in operation of civil aviation aircraft, including helicopters and microlights.

iv Passenger rights

There is no consumer rights legislation governing compensation for delay, cancellation of flights and carriage of disabled passengers.

v Other legislation

The relevant EASA approvals and OTARs under the UK Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 apply to environmental obligations.

III LICENSING OF OPERATIONS

i Licensed activities

Members of the flight crew are required to be licensed under the UK Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013.

ii Ownership rules

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 Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013. This includes who is considered to be a qualified person for registration. Such qualified persons are:

  1. the Crown in right of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom or in right of the government of the British Virgin Islands;
  2. United Kingdom nationals;
  3. Commonwealth citizens;
  4. nationals of any European Economic Area state;
  5. bodies incorporated in any part of the Commonwealth and which have their registered office or principal place of business in any part of the Commonwealth; or
  6. undertakings formed in accordance with the law of a European Economic Area state and which have their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the European Economic Area

iii Foreign carriers

As a territory regulated by EASA, EASA requires a Third Country Operator approval before a foreign aircraft may operate in the territory.

IV SAFETY

The relevant EASA approvals and Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements (OTARs) under the UK Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 apply to air carrier operations.

V INSURANCE

There is no mandatory level of insurance.

VI COMPETITION

There are no competition provisions in the BVI.

VII WRONGFUL DEATH

The relevant EASA approvals and OTARs under the UK Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 apply to wrongful death. There have been no cases in the BVI.

VIII ESTABLISHING LIABILITY AND SETTLEMENT

i Procedure

The relevant EASA approvals and OTARs under the UK Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 apply to wrongful death. There have been no cases in the BVI.

The limitation period is six years.

ii Carriers' liability towards passengers and third parties

With respect to an owner, Section 76(4) of the UK Civil Aviation Act 1982 is extended to the BVI to the effect that loss or damage caused by an aircraft in flight or by a person in, or an article, animal or person falling from, such an aircraft is transferred to the person to whom the owner has demised, let or hired out the aircraft if the demise, let or hire is for a period of more than 14 days and no crewmember is employed by the owner.

The owner of the aircraft would be subject to strict liability by virtue of Section 40(2) of the UK Civil Aviation Act 1949, extended to the BVI.

iii Product liability

There is no regime governing manufacturers' and owners' liability to passengers and operators.

iv Compensation

The relevant EASA approvals and OTARs under the UK Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 apply. This is not an area that has been tested in the BVI.

IX DRONES

The relevant EASA approvals and OTARs under the UK Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013 apply.

X VOLUNTARY REPORTING

There are no voluntary reporting initiatives.

XI THE YEAR IN REVIEW

The British Virgin Islands has many attractive features, including political stability, tax neutrality and the absence of exchange control and currency restrictions, which make it an ideal jurisdiction for aircraft and other international financing transactions. From a legal perspective, it has a well-developed, English-based legal system, a bespoke commercial court and flexible, highly commercially friendly legislation. On top of this, it adheres to international standards of compliance. These are all factors that have led to the BVI becoming a popular jurisdiction in which to establish special purpose vehicles for owning and leasing aircraft.

XII OUTLOOK

There are currently no forthcoming developments in aviation policy, legislation, regulation or the sector in the BVI.


Footnotes

1 Audrey M Robertson is a counsel at Conyers.