Contributor: Higgs & Johnson: Vivienee M. Gouthro, Zarina M. Fitzgerald, Keith O. Major, Jr., and Andre W. Hill
1. Which authority is in charge of the civil aviation registry in The Bahamas? Does The Bahamas use a single-registry system or is there a dual-registry system in place?
The Bahamas has a single-registry system.
Section 3(1) of the Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas Act, 2021 (the “CAABA”) provides that the Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas (the “Authority”) is responsible for the functions to be carried out by the Civil Aviation Act, 2021 (the “CAA”) and any convention to which the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (“The Bahamas”) is party on matters of civil aviation. The Authority is mandated to keep and maintain, inter alia, a register of all civil aircraft registered in The Bahamas. Pursuant to Section 9 of the CAA, the civil aircraft registry must show each aircraft registered by The Bahamas and the information recorded in the Certificate of Registration.
2. Is the registry an operator registry or an owner registry (or both)?
The aircraft registry in The Bahamas is an owner registry.
3. What are the requirements and documentation to register an aircraft in The Bahamas? Include references to formalities such as notarisation, legalization, etc.
The CAA provides that an aircraft is eligible for registration if it is owned by:
- a natural citizen of The Bahamas;
- an individual citizen of a foreign State who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence in The Bahamas;
- a company registered under the Companies Act lawfully incorporated in and doing business under the laws of The Bahamas, or a government entity of The Bahamas; or,
- an individual citizen or a corporation of another State at the discretion of the Director General.
An aircraft will not be eligible for a Certificate of Registration if the aircraft is registered under the laws of any other State.
With respect to documentation, to register an aircraft in The Bahamas, please see our response to question three.
4. What fees are payable to register an aircraft in The Bahamas?
Fees are assessed based on a schedule relative to the type of aircraft and are available upon request from the Authority.
5. Are there any weight and/or maximum age restrictions to register an aircraft in The Bahamas?
There are no weight and/or maximum age restrictions to register an aircraft in The Bahamas.
6. Does registration of an aircraft in the national registry constitute proof of ownership under the laws of The Bahamas?
Section 12 of the CAA provides that an aviation document, including a Certificate of Registration, issued under the CAA must not be considered evidence as to ownership in any proceeding under the laws of The Bahamas in which ownership of the aircraft by a particular person is or may be in issue.
7. How is an aircraft title transfer effected in The Bahamas? What are the formalities required to register such title transfer in the national registry of The Bahamas (e.g., notarization, legalization etc.)? Please summarize the related costs and procedures.
Legal title is transferred by way of, and effective at, the agreement of the parties to the transfer of legal title (whether for value or in the form of a gift). However, notice of the new owner of a registered aircraft is required to be provided to the Authority by the holder of the Certificate of Registration prior to the date of the acquisition. The owner is required to send to the Authority Form REG 014 | Change of Aircraft Details and submit supporting documents as outlined on the Appendix 1 of such form. The Certificate of Registration will be revoked if an application has not been submitted by the new owner at the date indicated in the notice.
8. What information and details are reflected in the certificate of registration of an aircraft?
The Certificate of Aircraft Registration, in wording and arrangement, must conform to the wording and content of the certificate shown in ICAO Annex 7. It must be in the English language and must contain the following information:
(1) State – Commonwealth of The Bahamas,
(2) title of the registering body – Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas,
(3) nationality and registration mark issued to the aircraft,
(4) name of the manufacturer,
(5) manufacturer’s designation of the aircraft,
(6) aircraft Serial Number,
(7) name of the aircraft owner,
(8) address of the owner,
(9) certification of entry on the registry,
(10) signature of the registering official,
(11) date of issue and
(12) any other information required by the Authority.
Upon receiving an application for the registration of an aircraft in The Bahamas and being satisfied that the aircraft may properly be so registered, the Authority must register the aircraft, wherever it may be, and shall include in the register the following particulars:
(1) the number of the certificate;
(2) the nationality mark of the aircraft and the registration mark assigned to it;
(3) the name of the constructor of the aircraft and its designation;
(4) the manufacturer’s serial number of the aircraft;
(5) name of owner;
(6) address of owner;
(7) date of issue; and
(8) any other information required by the Authority.
A Certificate of Registration expires three years after the last day of the month in which it was issued.
9. Are the entries in the aircraft registry of The Bahamas made available to the public upon submission of a specific application to the competent authority? Are there any fees payable for this?
Pursuant to Section 8(2) of the CAABA, the aircraft registry in The Bahamas is open to inspection by any member of the public at all reasonable times at the office of the Authority. There is no fee payable for this.
10. What kind of aircraft operations can be conducted with aircraft registered in The Bahamas (i.e., private use, commercial air transport or both)?
Bahamian registered aircraft may be operated under any of the following type of operations:
- Commercial Air Transportation – Airplanes (Air Operator Certificate),
- Private Airplanes or helicopter for general aviation,
- Commercial Air Transportation – Helicopters (Operator Certificate),
- Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS),
- Aerial work activities or,
- Commercial under a foreign Air Operator Certificate utilizing an ICAO 83bis Agreement.
11. Does the civil aviation authority in The Bahamas authorise the operation of foreign registered aircraft? If so, with which countries has The Bahamas entered into bilateral agreements on the basis of article 83-bis of the ICAO Chicago Convention for the delegation of regulatory oversight?
The Authority does not authorise the operation of foreign registered aircraft.
12. Is there a separate register of aircraft mortgages and/or leases and/or security interests in The Bahamas?
At present, there is no separate register of aircraft mortgages and/or leases and/or security interests in The Bahamas. All security documents may be recorded at the Bahamian Registrar General’s Department pursuant to the provisions of the Registration of Records Act (the “RRA”). Once the document is duly presented for recording, upon its being processed, it will bear an official stamp certifying its recording and a system reference for the same. To be clear, the RRA is the only Bahamian statute that deals with securing priorities in this jurisdiction. In particular, Section 10 of the RRA provides that where competing interests are involved, a document has priority from the date it is logged for record at the Registry of Records (not from the date of the execution of the document). However, this protection is afforded only in respect of a document which deals with land, goods, and effects situated in The Bahamas. If the assets provided as security are not situated in The Bahamas, then it will not be possible to secure priorities in this jurisdiction. Although we would note that recording the relevant security document may have the benefit of placing a third party on notice of the existence of the same.
However, pursuant to Section nine of the CAABA which came into effect February 16 2021, the Authority must maintain records of all documents which affect title to, or any legal or beneficial interest in (a) any civil aircraft registered in The Bahamas; (b) any aircraft engine, propeller, rotor, appliance, or spare part intended for use on any aircraft registered in The Bahamas. No document affecting title to, or any interest in, such registered aircraft engines, propellers, rotors, appliances, or spare parts shall be valid, except between the parties thereto, unless it is recorded in that system. The validity of any document so recorded, unless otherwise specified by the parties thereto, shall be determined under the laws of The Bahamas.
13. What are the formalities required to register a mortgage / lease / security interest in the national registry of The Bahamas (e.g., notarization, legalization etc.)? Please summarize the related costs and procedures.
Please note our response to question twelve above. Once a security document is presented for recording at the local Registry of Records, the relevant fees for the same will be assessed as follows: $4.50 USD for every page or part of a page.
14. Is a mortgage priority notice an available security instrument for aircraft financiers in The Bahamas?
At present, a mortgage priority notice is not an available security instrument for aircraft financiers in The Bahamas.
15. Does an aircraft mortgage duly registered in the national registry of The Bahamas extend to engines and other parts of such aircraft (either installed or not on the airframe)?
Please note our response to question12 above. Should an aircraft mortgage be registered in the local general Registry of Records, the security provided thereby will extend to such property specifically referred to in the security document.
16. What statutory liens (if any) would rank prior to an aircraft mortgage duly registered in the national registry of The Bahamas?
Please note our response to question 12 above, regarding registration of aircraft mortgages as a security document in the local Registry of Records. Statutory liens regarding aircraft have recently been introduced by Section 23 of The Bahamas Air Navigation Services Authority Act (“BANSA”). However, BANSA is silent as to the priority of ranking of statutory liens vis a viz aircraft mortgages. Nevertheless, section 10 of the Registration of Records Act, prescribes priority where there are competing interests to instruments and interests in relation to their sequence of recording. Accordingly, to the extent that a statutory lien is entered and recorded in the national registry prior to an aircraft mortgage, such lien will rank in priority.
17. Do the laws of The Bahamas provide for possessory rights and/or rights of detention over aircraft in favor of third parties (such as airport taxes, customs duties, air navigation charges, crew’s wages, MRO’s receivables)?
The statutory right of detention over aircraft was recently repealed by the CAA, which repealed the Civil Aviation Act, 2016, which contained such provisions. Provisions providing for the statutory right of detention were not returned in the new Civil Aviation Act which came into effect 16th February 2021.
18. Are foreign law-governed security agreements (e.g., mortgages) recognized in The Bahamas in order to validly create a security interest over an aircraft registered in the national registry of The Bahamas? If so, are there any formalities/requirements to bear in mind?
A foreign law–governed security agreement will be recognized to validly create a security over an aircraft registered in The Bahamas. As Stated in the response to question 12 above, no document affecting title to, or any interest in, such registered aircraft engines, propellers, rotors, appliances, or spare parts shall be valid, except between the parties thereto, unless it is recorded in that system. A Bahamian Court, in deciding an issue with respect to a security document which provides for a foreign governing law, will uphold the choice of a foreign governing law.
19. Are foreign law-governed leases recognized in The Bahamas in order to validly lease an aircraft registered in the national registry of The Bahamas to a lessee incorporated in The Bahamas? If so, are there any formalities/requirements to bear in mind?
A foreign law–governed lease will be recognized to validly lease an aircraft registered in The Bahamas. As stated in the response to question 12, no document affecting title to, or any interest in, such registered aircraft engines, propellers, rotors, appliances, or spare parts shall be valid, except between the parties thereto, unless it is recorded in that system. A Bahamian Court, in deciding an issue with respect to a lease which provides for a foreign governing law will uphold the choice of a foreign governing law.
20. Has The Bahamas ratified the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the related Aircraft Protocol? Has The Bahamas made any declarations to better determine the scope of application of the Convention / Protocol in The Bahamas? If so, what is the impact of such declarations on aircraft registration issues? Are there any specific aspects relating to the enforcement of IDERA’s to be considered?
The Bahamas has not signed or ratified the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the related Aircraft Protocol.
21. What are the requirements and documentation to deregister an aircraft from The Bahamas? How does the aircraft deregistration process work?
When transferring an aircraft registration to another State the applicant (owner or owner’s representative) must inform the Authority by submitting Form REG 03 – Application for Deregistration. The Application for Deregistration is reviewed primarily as an administrative formality. Once the application is complete, a Certificate of Deregistration is issued to the applicant.
22. What fees are payable to deregister an aircraft from The Bahamas?
Such fees are assessed based on a schedule relative to the type of aircraft and available upon request from the Authority.
23. Is the consent of the mortgagee / lessor (as the case may be) required in order to deregister an aircraft from The Bahamas?
As The Bahamas registry is an owner registry; no consent is required of the mortgagee or lessor to deregister an aircraft from The Bahamas.
24. What are the usual practical difficulties (if any) involved in deregistering aircraft from The Bahamas?
As mentioned in our response above, deregistration is primarily approached as an administrative function, so it does not present the usual difficulties.
25. How long does deregistration take, both where there is co-operation from the defaulted party (mortgagor / lessee / Operator) and where there is no such co-operation from it?
Deregistration of an aircraft is straightforward and typically can go into effect between 24 to 48 hours. As indicated above, no cooperation from mortgagee / lessor is required.
26. Please outline the applicable repossession rules under the national laws of The Bahamas (and the Cape Town Convention, if applicable) following an event of default under a mortgage or a lease, including registration issues with the national registry in The Bahamas.
Please note our responses to questions 18 and 19 above. The liberty of a mortgagee to take possession of this security is only limited by the provisions of the relevant mortgage document. Customarily, in The Bahamas the possession of a mobile asset due to an event of default is affected by way of judicial intervention. In order to effect possession of security by way of judicial intervention, the original mortgage will be required to support the application. For the government or the lessee to prevent the repossession, such an entity would be required to be joined to the relevant action for repossession and show cause why such steps should not be ordered.
Judicial Intervention is effected by the filing of an Originating Summons (in the main) or a Writ of Summons, setting out the particulars of the relationship between the parties and the event(s) of default which give rise to the request. The security document will need to be adduced and the relevant portions which empower the steps of the mortgagee identified. This process can range anywhere from three to 11 months if protracted. All of the relevant correspondence passing between the parties in relation to the security document will be required to support the application.