Mar 2020 Interview with Thomas Dunstan, Director General of the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA)
Thomas Dunstan, Director General of the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA), explains why the island continues to be the ideal location for the registration of aircraft of any size.
PR: The Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) has been in existence for 85 years. What has contributed to your success?
Thomas Dunstan (TD): Much of it has do with Bermuda and the way Bermuda has positioned itself and built its overall business. The aircraft registry has been a big part of that and we have been very lucky with our relationships with other jurisdictions and countries to build up our global reputation and credibility over all those years. We have a good safety record and continue to enhance and improve our safety culture, which is important in aviation.
We also always look to be competitive and, even though we are a regulatory authority, we have to be mindful of the competition because of the aircraft registry part of our business. Competition has increased over the past seven years and, therefore, it has become more difficult to grow exponentially. However, we strive to promote our customer focus, reputation, credibility and responsiveness, and consequently, that puts us in a different category to some of the competition out there. We currently have over 800 registered aircraft and, once again, we are ranked as the number one offshore registry in size and tenth overall in the world — and we want to increase our ranking in the global marketplace.
PR: When you mention competition, a lot of other jurisdictions are coming into the market. What differentiates you from other jurisdictions?
TD: In aviation, we are all aiming for an international standard of safety with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). With the help of bodies such as the ICAO we can ensure that Bermuda maintains the highest safety standards to remain competitive in the industry. Eight years ago, we were probably the first jurisdiction that met all the new requirements of ICAO’s Annex 6. We pushed for that and we wanted to be the leader and be the first to do that. Others have followed us but we are always looking to take a leading position in showing the marketplace that we are maintaining the highest standards of regulation, but also being adaptable and flexible with our customers in working with them. When unique situations come up, we are still maintaining requirements and regulations, but we also accommodate some of their business needs.
On the blue-chip side of things, it really comes down to the reputation of Bermuda from its transparency to its financial regulations and monitoring, which makes it attractive for individuals and businesses to invest and set up business here. We are not a tax haven, in fact Bermuda has worked diligently to ensure that we meet all the financial requirements and are transparent with other jurisdictions around the world. We are very strong in that and make sure we stay on top of it, because it does not take much to destroy a reputation, although it takes a long time to build it up. We try to reflect that in the aviation sector as well, and work with the industry and government. Overall, it is the collaboration of the various industries and parts that make up Bermuda that makes everything work.
PR: Can you explain how being a “quango” helps you?
TD: Our quango status is quite new. We have been working very hard over the past three years to make this transition. It is something that was needed for a long time. As a regulator, we must make sure that we have the proper resources, financing and staff in terms of human capital to ensure that our regulatory oversight is properly maintained. But then we have the business aspect, so if we want to maintain and grow that, we must put some resources into that as well. By becoming a quango, it gives us the ability to manage our own finances and apply resources where we need them now and for things that we see coming up in the future. We can also start working on more diversification in terms of the business that we have and start marketing ourselves to make sure people know about us and know we are here to stay.
PR: Can you talk about the type of aircrafts you can register here?
TD: We can target any size of business jet. We have 787s, 747s and 777s on our registry, so we are not only talking about corporate-sized aircrafts, it is also the larger commercial-sized aircraft that people use for business jets. We have a whole cross section of aircraft size that we register here and a wealth of experience within our own organization that can manage all these different types of aircrafts. The America’s Cup, obviously, has been a real impetus for promoting Bermuda and taking us into the future with continued growth.
There may not be direct impact for aviation right now but hopefully, as people see the opportunities to invest in Bermuda, individuals and companies will start to set up companies here and will also consider registering their aircraft here.
PR: On the aviation side, the expansion of the airport is important. How do you see your business as being able to diversify the economy?
TD: The aircraft registry side of the business is all offshore money, so it is money that comes in from other countries, which is foreign exchange. This is ideal for us since it is not a burden on the taxpayer of Bermuda. BCAA generates income through registering both commercially operated and privately owned aircraft. BCAA and the aviation sector make a significant contribution to Bermuda’s economy and strong potential for growth. That is key in the bigger expansion plans that the government has for Bermuda to diversify. We cannot keep on relying on the taxpayer for every penny. We must find other ways to generate new sources of income. The aircraft registry has been very successful in the last 20 years and we are always looking for new jurisdictions, and areas where we might find growth and attract people to register their aircraft in Bermuda.
PR: Can you elaborate on where you want to attract more clients from?
TD: Currently, we see a potential in China and Asia Pacific in general. We are building up our data and analysing it as we speak. We are attending more conferences and shows that take place in the Asia Pacific market. The projection is that the growth in China will be flat for the next year, but will then start taking off again with business aircraft sales, so we are trying to be there to have exposure and visibility, for when that does happen. Europe is always a market that we are looking to expand in and we have a fair number of aircrafts in Europe. Another region is the Middle East, where there has been significant growth for several years.
PR: What message would you like to send to readers about BCAA and Bermuda?
TD: We are a first-class jurisdiction and we are not the Caribbean. The Caribbean is lovely, but Bermuda is different. The business aspect is very key for us, and the infrastructure we have in place is vital. Also, our global reach is a big aspect for Bermuda and the aviation sector, which is supported by our office in London. We also have a contracted office in Moscow, which also supports our current key markets. By providing that sort of reach, it makes it very easy for people to contact us and ask questions, because of time zone changes. The client must have a seamless and positive interaction with us, so a time zone cannot be an excuse.