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Bermuda And US Sign Non-Commercial Aviation Agreement

by Amanda Banks,, London

03 July 2008

Passengers and crew of private aircraft departing Bermuda are expected to soon have the rare benefit of United States Customs pre-clearance at Bermuda's L.F. Wade International Airport, according to a Letter of Intention signed jointly in Washington, D.C. by Premier of Bermuda Ewart F. Brown and US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

The international pact is viewed as mutually beneficial by enhancing the attractiveness of Bermuda’s tourism and financial services industries while also mitigating the potential threat to US homeland security as passengers and crew will be thoroughly vetted before arriving on American soil.

Premier Brown, who is also Bermuda’s Minister of Tourism and Transport, said: “Given the steady increase in private jet landings in Bermuda, this is a timely development.”

The Letter of Intention was signed at the Department of Homeland Security Monday, part of a Bilateral Visit to Washington led by US Chief of Mission in Bermuda Gregory Slayton. Slayton is widely credited for strengthening the 400-year relationship between the two countries.

Slayton said: “This agreement is yet another example of international cooperation at its best. Our success in forging this partnership reflects on the close relationship that exists between the United States, the United Kingdom and Bermuda which grows ever stronger.”

In Bermuda passengers and crew of commercial flights already receive US Customs pre-clearance at L.F. Wade International Airport in accordance with an agreement signed in January 1974. To extend the same conveniences to non-commercial flyers will require an amendment to the 1974 agreement.

The newly signed Letter of Intention is the result of months of talks between Hamilton, Washington and London. A final agreement will be reached once logistical and legal hurdles are cleared between Bermuda and the United States, with the oversight of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Deputy Governor Mark Capes represents the FCO in Bermuda. He said: “The well-established and efficient pre-clearance operation for commercial flights is highly valued by travelers from Bermuda to the USA. This shared intent to build on that success, by expanding pre-clearance to include private aircraft, is a good indicator of the strength and maturity of the relationship between Bermuda, the United States and the United Kingdom.”

Bermuda’s insurance and reinsurance industry boasts USD325bn in assets and wrote 29% of the world’s gross insurance premiums in 2005, the largest premium-writing capacity of any country outside of the United States. Bermuda-based companies provide more insurance cover for Americans than any other country in the world outside of the United States. As a result private air travel between the United States and Bermuda is frequent, about 3,000 non-commercial flights fly into L.F. Wade International each year.

Meantime, Bermuda’s tourist industry increasingly attracts affluent travelers, fuelled in part by the development of new hotel properties and the upgrade of old properties. It’s believed the added convenience of Customs pre-clearance will give affluent travelers who fly non-commercially a new reason to choose Bermuda for leisure travel.

Minister of Tourism and Transport Premier Brown said: “We call our improving tourism product the Platinum Period to bring attention to an exquisite high-end visitor experience."

He added: “In the past few years we have rolled out exciting transportation options like private limousine services and luxurious fast ferries and we have passed legislation to stimulate new excitement in our hotel offerings. Hotel owners are busy upgrading their properties and building new ones to meet the Platinum Period standard."

Brown concluded: “These new developments in the area of private aviation augment our Platinum Period strategy.”

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