Guernsey looking to outsource aircraft registry


The States of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel close to the coast of France, wants its own aircraft registry.

The States of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel close to the coast of France, wants its own aircraft registry.

In the old days running the aircraft registry was just something that civil aviation authorities did. They took it seriously – even if business jets were less important than airlines – and tended to view new aircraft as an irritation. In recent years that view has changed as off-shore jurisdictions realised the benefits of hosting registries.

Now the Baliwick of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel close to the coast of France, wants its own aircraft registry.

It also thinks it can create a private jet registry at virtually no cost by following Aruba’s example and finding a strategic partner to put up the investment.

“That would be our preferred model,” says Fergus Woods, director of Civil Aviation for Guernsey and Jersey. “They would develop the business case, the regulatory structure and take on the running of the registry.”

Woods stresses it is still early days in the process, though he did confirm that expressions of interest have been received and reviewing those offers is underway. It is likely that one of these will have come from International Air Safety Office Inc., which runs the Aruba registry.

“We would prefer the whole investment up front, but you have to think about the lack of control that might bring,” he says.

Announcing plans to set up the registry back in October, the government claimed the island’s economy would be given an £18 million boost ($29 million) in the first three years. According to the government paper this figure is based on registering 125 aircraft, which puts the theoretical gain at £140,000 per jet.

This money will, of course, not go to the registry. The government believes a registry would increase business for the island’s banks, trust companies, lawyers and aviation specialists.

“If we can get Guernsey businesses’ acts together, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable figure,” says Woods.

It certainly seems optimistic. Guernsey would be entering a crowded market in offshore registries, where its biggest challenge will be to differentiate itself from what is already available, in particular its closest geographical rival the Isle of Man. The Manx registry launched in 2007 and already accounts for more than 400 aircraft.

This success has been attributed to a user-friendly 24-hour service provided at low cost, and Guernsey is likely to use a similar approach. “I believe it is immoral for states to establish rules and then profit from people complying with those rules,” says Woods, “people should pay the cost of compliance and nothing more, so our regulatory charges will have to be competitive.”

“Being 24 hours means you can be attractive to people from all over the world, but we really won’t know the business plan until we have finalised our strategic partner,” he adds.

Guernsey also faces the issue of VAT. Lying outside the VAT zone, it is impossible to register for EU VAT in Guernsey, proving an extra administrational issue for anyone wanting to fly their aircraft regularly in Europe.

There is undoubtedly a long way to go. Jersey had originally considered forming a joint Channel Islands registry. This will not happen now and Guernsey will still need to convince the UK Civil Aviation Authority of its case.

Despite the challenges, Woods is confident that Guernsey can carve out a niche in the market off the coast of France. “Guernsey and the Channel Islands have established a strong brand in people’s minds. We already have a very successful yacht registry, and we know that keeping assets in the same jurisdiction will appeal to those already here.”