A short guide to registering aircraft in the Cayman Islands

Richard Smith, Director-General of the CAA of the Cayman Islands gives a brief guide on how to register an aircraft.

THE CAYMAN ISLANDS Aircraft Registry (the Registry) is the registry of choice for many private-aircraft owners, financiers, management companies, attorneys and other key decision makers. Stringent standards and a mandate for absolute safety guide the oversight of Cayman-registered aircraft. The Registry has been operating as a reputable offshore aircraft registry since the early 1970s and has an outstanding safety record.

The dedicated technical team of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) works with aircraft operators on annual plans to ensure regulatory standards and timelines are met and, where appropriate, flexibility and customised solutions afforded. The CAACI works closely with the Cayman Islands’s industry experts in the legal/ financial and company registration sectors to ensure sound and secure transactions for the initial aircraft registration or changes thereafter. The CAACI staff is highly qualified and experienced in regulatory oversight and in working with aircraft management and maintenance organisations to ensure compliance with internationally mandated standards.

The CAACI operates in accordance with a statutory instrument that is predicated on UK legislation found in the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013, AN(OT)O (and subsequent amendments) contains regulations governing the operational and airworthiness requirements of Cayman-registered aircraft. Also relevant is the guidance contained in the Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements (OTARS) as published for all UK Overseas territories.

The criteria for registering an aircraft begins with the first phase of the submission of registration documents through VP-C Online, the CAACI’s bespoke secured data-management portal. All of the registering owner’s due diligence documents are required to be submitted at the time the Registration Application is submitted. The CAACI conducts due diligence in compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations of the Cayman Islands. With stricter Anti-Money Laundering regulations coming into effect in the Cayman Islands and the world over, we have to ensure that we are knowledgeable and comfortable with qualifying registrants accepted into the CI Aircraft Registry.

During the initial application process, an applicant can choose from a list of available registration marks which start with VP-C plus two variable letters. All information pertaining to registration of aircraft on the Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry can be obtained from the CAACI website.

The Cayman Islands provides a credible, politically stable jurisdiction of choice for aircraft registrations. As a leading tax-neutral international financial centre, the English legal system provides owners and financiers of aircraft certainty and confidence. Traditionally a private/corporate Aircraft Registry, the CAACI in conjunction with the CI Government and the Cayman Islands’ Special Economic Zone – Cayman Enterprise City (CEC) has introduced an alternative means for compliance with the ‘Principal Place of Business’ criterion to allow an offshore Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to be granted for certain commercial operations.

An example of exceptional service from the CAACI is the creation of VP-C Online

The CAACI also works in close partnership to ensure that aircraft registrants have expert guidance on applicable law and procedures. One such example of the CAACI working in partnership with local aviation specialists was evident in 2015 when the CAACI was a member of a local working group which included top aviation finance attorneys along with the CI Government’s Ministry of Financial Services. This group was established to develop enabling legislation to have the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the associated Protocol on matters specific to aircraft equipment (also known as the Cape Town Convention) come into force in the Cayman Islands. The Cape Town Convention is an international treaty that aims to standardise transactions involving movable assets, such as aircraft.

In July 2015, the UK ratified the Cape Town Convention and extended it to some of its territories that had ready-and-waiting enabling legislation – the Cayman Islands being one of those territories. The International Interests in Mobile Equipment (Cape Town Convention) Law (Cayman Islands), 2015, was enacted and came into effect on November 1 2015. Accordingly, the Cayman Islands received international recognition under the Cape Town Convention.

Although the Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry had been recognising Cape Town filings under previous Cayman Islands Cape Town Legislation (2009), the ratification of the international convention by the UK and its extension to the Cayman Islands, provided further comfort to global financial institutions that participate in aircraft finance transactions and that wish to transact with parties in jurisdictions that are recognised under the Cape Town Convention.

An example of exceptional service from the CAACI is the creation of VP-C Online. This bespoke electronic data management system provides a secure way to manage all aircraft documents online, this includes applications (starting with the registration application), certificates and approvals. VP-C Online is a convenient and secured way for CAACI clients to apply for authorisations and certificates that are required for both initial aircraft registration and for continuing airworthiness and operations. The ability for clients to file applications 24/7 from any time zone around the world is yet another positive client service benefit associated with the Registry.

The secured portal also acts as a repository for all technical and supporting documentation for the registration and continuing airworthiness processes for the tenure of the aircraft while on the Registry. Clients will also be able to check the status of applications and to reprint certificates or authorisations should the need arise. Clients have voiced that this convenient system makes the Cayman Islands Aircraft Registry a preferred choice in registration of aircraft.

The CAACI recognises the importance of aircraft financiers and lessors as many of our clients in aircraft ownership and operation depend on these financial intermediaries. This is a valuable relationship we foster through an insightful and collaborative understanding of the interdependencies of the industry. We have introduced material processes, online portals and bespoke products all specifically designed to support the interests of lessors. The CAACI is working to establish long-term relationships with lessors that will provide ready solutions where aircraft registration support is required with emphasis beyond the registration process. The CAACI’s focus is to offer a Transition Register which is supported by highly experienced full-time personnel in view of equipment being offered to new lessees in multiple jurisdictions in an expeditious manner following our normal attention to stringent safety protocols. In addition to existing functionality VP-C Online is being enhanced to include a Lessor Module whereby a lessor can apply for a VP-C Online account. This account will provide ready access to all of the airworthiness and operational certifications of the various aircraft of a particular lessor which has been registered in the Cayman Islands.

With a focus on the quality of service, flexibility, bespoke online offerings, attention to detail and safety, the CAACI continues to strive to set itself apart from other jurisdictions. The CAACI remains committed to offering a personal, responsive and high-quality service to its customers, and to finding innovative and efficient solutions to the needs of those they work with.