EVA talks to Marco Conti, Director General of the state’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and David Colindres, President of San Marino Aircraft Registry (SMAR)
San Marino, or more officially, the Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino, is a tiny microstate wholly surrounded by Italy. It is located on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains and covers just 24 square miles, which makes it Europe’s third-smallest state, after the Vatican and Monaco.
It has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe, but has the distinction of being – or claiming to be – the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic on the face of the planet. It traces its origins all the way back to a monastic community founded on 3 September 301 AD, by the stonecutter Marinus of Arbe.
In 2007, meanwhile, 1,706 years after the establishment of the Republic, Jorge Colindres, Founder and Chairman of Aviation Registry Group (ARG) and CEO of The Registry of Aruba (headquartered in Miami, Florida) embarked on a journey with his son David Colindres to expand its exclusive aircraft registry business model.
In September 14, 2012, after a series of meetings between ARG executives and San Marino government officials, San Marino Civil Aviation Authority executive Ing. Marco Conti (Director General) and Jorge Colindres (ARG Chairman), agreed to secure a long-term contract. Subsequently the ARG Board of Directors appointed David Colindres as President of the San Marino Aircraft Registry to work in partnership with ex-Head of State and current Director General of Civil Aviation, Ing. Marco Conti.
“Our agreement with ARG allowed the Republic to develop its aviation activities and increase the Aircraft Registry, whilst maintaining an excellent client service with full compliance with ICAO standards,” Conti says, commenting on the arrangement.
“Our main objective was to locate a State with an impeccable international reputation. The Republic of San Marino, with its interesting history and exciting traditions, met that requirement and was then chosen as the ideal location for the development of the next ultimate aircraft registry,” comments David Colindres.
In December 2012 at the MEBAA Show in Dubai, SMAR and the CAA launched the San Marino Aircraft Registry to foreign aircraft owners operating private aeroplanes, corporate jets and turbine helicopters. Twelve months later, SMAR became the first European based Aircraft Registry to open its doors to private and commercial air transportation operations following the high demand of airlines and business jet charter operators.
Since then there has been a high demand for operators wanting an AOC to offer its clientele the option to commercially operate the aircraft worldwide. In the four years since the Registry was launched, David Colindres has witnessed an increase in Private Jet owners, including VVIP, wishing to pursue an AOC in order to offset their operating costs.
An applicant that wishes to operate an aircraft for the purpose of Commercial Air Transport must obtain an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the CAA and have their principal place of business in San Marino where the principal financial functions and operational control of the activities are exercised. As of today, the CAA has certified and granted seven (7) Air Operator Certificates (AOCs). In support of our commercial operations and as member of European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) Effective from 17 August 2016 the Republic of San Marino is a party to the Multilateral Agreement on Commercial Rights of Non-Scheduled Air Services in Europe, signed in Paris on 1956.
Alternately, applicants can choose to operate commercially under a foreign AOC utilizing an ICAO Article 83bis agreement. Today, the CAA has signed an ICAO Article 83bis agreement with the Republic of Lebanon, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. In Lebanon, the national carrier Middle East Airlines (MEA) has six (6) A320s and two (2) more business jet operators. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there are three (3) business jet operators with seven (7) aircraft and in Nigeria there is one (1) business jet with a fleet of six (6) aircraft.
Colindres is happy to point out that for the past four years the San Marino Government and its people have been the finest hosts possible. “The Ministry of Transport, headed by Minister Marco Arzilli, and the CAA Director General Ing. Marco Conti, have embraced the project and given full support to the aircraft registry to ensure its success. This is just the beginning of a great journey. Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved,” he comments.
For his part, Conti point out that our strategic partnerships have proven to be highly effective way to build the business. Just this year we have achieved 74 new aircraft registrations up to the third quarter of 2016. I feel pride and honor for San Marino to be chosen by owners and aircraft operators for our high standards and service. The biggest growth in registrations in recent years has come from Middle East, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as well as Africa although there is an increasing interest from Asia and Australia. Our commitment is to remain the best option for aircraft operators/owners for the next 100 years.
While there are similarities between the other registries and the San Marino Aircraft Registry, Colindres explains that there was a whole new drive and dimension behind the establishment of the new registry. “To compete in an international arena, SMAR developed the idea of differentiating our product and service from the existing aircraft registries by using a creative approach to provide a better service. For example, SMAR pioneered aircraft registration by foreign owners using a local domicile representative, whilst the CAA ensured operators had access to necessary guidance material and reactive administration.
“Tax efficiency is an important driver in the decisions of owners and operators when considering where to register their aircraft. All aircraft registered in San Marino are exempt from VAT and import tax, provided the foreign citizen or company owns the aircraft,” he points out.
Moreover, SMAR offers corporate jet aircraft owners the freedom to choose a jurisdiction of choice when structuring ownership and operation, without the need to incorporate a new San Marino company. A streamlined and innovative legal framework was created to allow foreign individuals and foreign companies to qualify for registration of their own aircraft once they have elected a representative residing in the Republic of San Marino. The Registry can assist with the nomination of this representative who will act as an address for service – with their only responsibility being to transmit to the owner any relevant official notices and notifications from the CAA.
Registration by domicile allows a smoother and speedier transition to T7 registration, offers more cost-effective fees and contributes greatly in creating a streamlined and very simple, straightforward registration process. Registration can be accomplished in one to three business days following the satisfactory airworthiness inspection of the aircraft and documentation.
“This was a great innovation that transformed the way we register aircraft,” says Conti.
The San Marino Aircraft Registry was founded with a clear concept of quality and service. Since its inception, it has focused on becoming the best in all areas of the business. In addition, the CAA’s regulatory responsibilities have been recognised with the ICAO Council President’s Certificate for exemplary commitments and progress on aviation safety during the 2016 opening ceremony at ICAO’s headquarters in Montreal. Following an ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Continuous Monitoring Approach (CMA) audit of the San Marino CAA, carried out from 29 June to 6 July 2015, the CAA is proud to note that with respect to the effective implementation by area for eight critical elements, it achieved an above global average as one of the top 20 compliant CAAs.
ICAO representatives at the time stated: “The professionalism and enthusiasm of all personnel who interacted with the audit team contributed greatly to the success of the audit mission.” An owner, operator or lessor can be confident that the regulations, documentation and processes comply with the highest international standards.
“Our achievement here really gives global credibility to the CAA of San Marino as an international focus for registering business and commercial aircraft,” Colindres says.
The CAA and its registry is becoming recognised for its pragmatic approach in civil aviation safety, compliance, customised solutions and customer service.
Colindres adds: “In today’s world, privacy and security are fundamental to the safety of our clientele. In San Marino the name of the company in which the aircraft is registered only appears on the certificate of registration. However, this information is not publicly available on the San Marino Civil Aviation website. The Registry specialises in VVIP aircraft registration services, providing confidentiality, a neutral profile registration mark and political stability.”
The San Marino CAA and its registry are delighted to have been able to obtain a successful position in a competitive market in such a short period of time, becoming a leading jurisdiction for aircraft owners, lessors and operators. “Basically it is the professionalism and work ethic of the CAA with the assistance of very dedicated and experienced Registry personnel. The CAA consists of a group of professionals and experienced regulators, aviation consultants, registration and licensing officers that focus on the regulatory and safety requirements, who work hand in hand with a registry that understands the different needs that aircraft owners, operators or lessors expect,” Colindres notes.
The San Marino CAA is a signatory to the Cape Town Convention that protects owners’ assets, rights and interests. The Cape Town Convention is intended to give parties involved in such transactions greater confidence and predictability, principally through the establishment of a uniform set of rules guiding the constitution, protection, prioritisation and enforcement of certain rights in aircraft and aircraft engines. The Registry offers all this and more through its innovative approach to client requirements.
“Our latest innovative move was to develop and implement legislation, procedures, policies and regulations for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) operations regulations which came into effect from May 2016,” Colindres says.
The CAA approach to internationally recognised standards and a Type Certificate (TC) and the associated Type Certificate Data Sheets (TCDS) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States, Transport Canada, or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would be acceptable to the CAA. In the matter of STCs (Supplemental Type Certificates) embodied on an aircraft, the CAA will accept without further review any STC that has been previously approved by the above national aviation authorities when the CAA first issues the aircraft with a Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA).
The high standards of service on which San Marino prides itself are underpinned in large measure by the deep experience of former UK CAA, Australian CASA, EASA, FAA and senior regulators and inspectors. “All our senior regulators and technical experts bring an average of 20 years or more of experience at working with the world’s renowned CAAs. Our senior regulators are experts in civil aviation regulations, compliance and safety management, all of which improve the safety performance of our operators,” says Conti.
He makes a point of not bringing anyone into the technical side of the business who is not able to demonstrate at least a 20-year track record in a previous civil aviation authority. “We do not take someone, for example, who may be a very good engineer, but who has no regulatory experience. It is deep regulatory knowledge that we insist on first and foremost,” he emphasises.
The whole point is to ensure that CAA regulators and inspectors act according to CAA procedures, policies and regulations when it comes to recommending approvals and certifications for aircraft. “We aim to provide a top quality regulatory service and we look to provide guidance to every single operator on the Registry,” Conti observes. Inspectors always travel to the customer’s preferred site for the aircraft that is being examined.
Colindres points out that switching the registration to San Marino is a very straightforward affair and can be done with minimal ground time. “If it is a brand new aircraft, we send the inspectors direct to the OEM. We have very close ties with the OEMS and we have a number of Boeing, Airbus, Cessna, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Dassault aircraft on the Registry.
“Our corporate objectives are to meet and surpass client expectations and to ensure their complete satisfaction as they get their T7 registered aircraft flying,” he notes.
An added value to the Registry is the CAA’s utilisation of designated and highly experienced flight operation inspectors and airworthiness inspectors. The CAA has inspectors able to cover North and South America, Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia.
The San Marino CAA recognises maintenance organisations appropriately approved by EASA, FAA, UAE GCAA and Singapore CAAS as meeting the equivalent standards of CAR 145 regulations within the scope of work as stated in their approval. These organisations can perform maintenance on T7 registered aircraft without requiring formal approval, allowing aircraft owners and operators to select from a greater selection of, or more conveniently located, maintenance organisations.
“Word of mouth is a great source of new business opportunities for us and we are growing strongly through recommendations from our existing client base,” Colindres comments.
One of the challenges for any well-run organisation is ensuring that quality is maintained and the bar is moved ever higher. Conti says he is confident that San Marino has a very strong quality control system in place, supported by regular internal and external audit checks. “We have a team of ex-ICAO, EASA, UKCAA and FAA senior regulators and inspectors that we invite in every six months to audit our processes, procedures, policies and regulations. The CAA has a functioning State Safety Program and the CAA is also constantly updating and upgrading our publications and regulations,” he comments.
Conti adds that one of the most important publications for the Registry is Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 01 on the aircraft registration process. “If you need to know how to proceed with the registration of a particular aircraft, this is the definitive document on how to move forward. Like all CAA publications and regulations it is available on the CAA and Registry website (www.smar.aero). It was created on 20 December 2012 and to date there have already been nine revisions of the publication. This is an example of the continuous updating that we undertake in order to take account of emerging international best practice and all the legislative changes,” he notes.
One of the most necessary things to do as a manager is to ensure that you are constantly up to date with the latest standards and industry best practice. The San Marino CAA and its Registry continues to be more innovative, competitive and focused to offer its clients the highest level of service and support for its clients’ operation from day one.
The Registry invites you to experience the San Marino difference.