The newly appointed Minister of Financial Services the Hon. Hope Strachan has flagged aviation as one of the areas of focus for her Ministry as she takes responsibility for directing its affairs. Speaking at the International Business and Finance Summit, 2015, the Minister expressed her commitment to the development of aviation within the context of financial services. Her pronouncement prefigures the beginning of a fresh initiative to explore the expansion of aviation related services with a view to broadening the already impressive array of financial services and products on offer to both the domestic and international market.

Participants in the Bahamian aviation industry are engaged in a broad range of issues across a number of aviation sectors. These involve matters related to airports, airline operations, travel agencies, cargo, ground services, air navigation services, and accounting/finance. Active aviation sectors also include the civil aviation authority (with responsibility for regulations including safety regulations, registration and licensing) and aircraft acquisition and financing, including finance lease structures.

Arguably The Bahamas has of late distinguished itself in the aspect of aviation concerned with airports. The Bahamas is able to boast of its recently constructed and celebrated world class Lynden Pindling International Airport with enviable high marks for user satisfaction. Reportedly The Bahamas has also enjoyed a top position amongst private charter jet destinations with very attractive consequential benefits for the local economy throughout and in particular the peak winter season of 2014.

Perhaps lesser known however is the jurisdiction's history of participation in aircraft finance lease structures; typically involving one or more special purpose companies (SPC's) established under the International Business Companies Act. At center stage is the availability of the International Business Company, a stellar corporate vehicle known for its simplicity and flexibility. The use of the IBC along with trust and/or foundation options to create a desirable shareholding structure, together with the proven reputation of The Bahamas as a well regulated, tax neutral and responsible offshore jurisdiction provides the perfect context to support the offshore requirements for the finance lease structures.

In addition to the commitment to the aviation industry expressed by the Minister of Financial Services, the Minister of Transport and Aviation has within the month of February 2015 indicated the selection of consultants to assist in the review and further development of the jurisdiction's aircraft related registration regime. The Minster has also foreshadowed the creation of provisions to regulate the use of drones within The Bahamas. All of this demonstrates an awareness of and sensitivity towards domestic and international issues impacting the industry which is a necessary and welcome feature to the proper growth of the sector.

Progress in advancing aviation related services will test the resolve not only of the Ministry of Financial Services and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation but also, where required, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Attorney General. The opportunity to display acumen, agility and a facility for collaboration between Ministries with the support of industry is once again presenting itself. There is a certain optimism that The Bahamas will be true to its historically demonstrated propensity to seize the day and in the present environment, provide prudent, creative and effective responses to opportunities within the aviation industry and the financial services sector.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.