Monday, October 30, 2006

New Postal Codes to be Launched Today in BVI

The new postal code system is expected to be implemented today in the British Virgin Islands, during the ceremony which will begin at 4.45 pm.

Benefits of new postal code system including more efficient mail service were already discussed in September when BVI Government has announced on the adoption of the postal code system in the BVI. The three main benefits of implementing postal codes were also stressed during a press briefing at the chief minister's office by Postmaster General Kevin Smith. These are commercial recognition for online shopping, more efficient way of sorting and processing local mail and international recognition.

The local postal service worked along with the United States postal service to change the way mail has traditionally been transported to the BVI. Smith stated that in the past a dispatch would take from 15 to 45 days depending on the season or the route, while now the dispatches are coming to the BVI from the two transit points in New York and Miami within 3 or 4 business days.

Smith has pointed at the main difference between the old and newly implemented postal systems: traditionally every branch and sub-post office in the BVI was responsible for sorting its own mail, but now, with the introduction of the new code, there will be a hub where all mail will be processed, and the branches will focus on retail services.

The postal code structure is based on the fact that the codes which are to be revealed today will be physically linked to a post office or one's postal address. Also, by words of Smith, each island including Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke will have different code, and the major island Tortola will have three zones – East, Central and West – each having different postal code. There is also enough place allowed within the numerical system of the code for expanding with the growth of the postal infrastructure and network.

Thorough public education campaign has been planned in an effort to get the public to utilize the codes as quickly as possible. It is, however, anticipated that only 10% of the population would start using the codes in the first year and a half.

Smith also informed the publics about his intention to bring the best service in the region, and in that connection to open an Express Mail service in 2007. For this, the BVI post office is working with a US based private company to develop a data base that would feature to some degree GPS mapping and provide house delivery service.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

BVI Leading Insurance Broker Joins HLA Global

The Belmont Risk Solutions Limited agency has released a bulletin where informed about its joining to the HLA Global insurance broking network. Belmont Group is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and offers wide range of insurance-related services and products. The spheres of activities of the company include also captive management and reinsurance activities, as well as intermediary services for the BVI residents and businesses. Belmont Insurance Management Limited, the sister company of Belmont Risk Solutions Limited, holds under its management over 90 captive insurance and reinsurance companies of the BVI region.

The head of Belmont Group is Simon Owen – an investment and insurance specialist who has worked in the finance industry for over 13 years. He acts as the Managing Director of Belmont Risk Solutions Limited and Chariman of the British Virgin Islands Association of Insurance Managers. He is also member of the British Virgin Islands Marketing Advisory Committee, the Financial Services Institute Advisory Committee and the Joint Anti-Money Laundering Coordination Committee. Commenting on company's joining HLA Global, Mr. Owen stated that membership in such a strong and established broking network and 'affiliation with leading international firms such as Heath Lambert and Acordia' can bring a lot of benefits to their clients based in the BVI and overseas.

By words of Chief Operation Officer of HLA Grahame Weatherley, Belmont is 'a strong partner in the British Virgin Islands whose local knowledge and insight will enable HLA Global members around the world to meet the needs of those of their clients with a requirement for service and support in this important territory.'

The HLA Global, which was founded in 1997, is now represented in more than 60 countries. Its main partners are the UK-based Heath Lambert Group, and Acordia Inc., which is the largest bank-affiliated insurance broker in the U.S. These leading insurance broking companies, together with other partners, make up the HLA Global network with more than 6,000 people employed and US$1.5 billion in brokerage revenue a year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BVI FSC issued the 2nd Advisory Warning for 2006

It has already been mentioned that occasionally British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission issues advisory warnings for the publics to protect them from scams, misunderstandings or wrongdoings. This year’s first FSC Advisor Warning issued on Curam Investment Management Limited and stating that this company is not licensed by the Financial Services Commission to provide management and/or administrative services to mutual funds under the Mutual Funds Act, 1996 (as amended) has already been described.

Recently Advisory Warning No. 2 of 2006 was issued. This time it concerns Jyske Bank BVI.

Robert A. Mathavious, Managing Director/CEO of the BVI Financial Services Commission informed the general public that Jyske Bank BVI is neither incorporated nor registered in the BVI. Also, it is not licensed to carry on banking business to carry on business in or from throughout the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Mathavious indicated that extreme caution should be applied when dealing with Jyske Bank BVI.

In the world of international banking currently the most popular Jyske Bank is Danish Jyske Bank. It has the following units outside Denmark:

  • Jyske Bank, London Branch,
  • Jyske Bank, Filiale Hamburg,
  • Jyske Bank (Schweiz),
  • Jyske Bank, Sucursal en EspaƱa,
  • Jyske Bank (Gibraltar) Ltd.,
  • Jyske Bank (France),
  • Berben's Effectenkantoor B.V.,
  • Jyske Bank (Poland)
and no business unit in the BVI.

If somebody has decided to drive his/her business by combining a reputable international bank’s name with perhaps the most popular offshore financial services jurisdiction, it seems more like a scam rather than a coincidence that the bank with the name Jyske Bank BVI has been registered in some other country.

Jyske Bank is an independent bank. By the end of 2005, it has been owned by more than 240 thousand shareholders. Now its total assets are above USD 23.5 billion. On May 2, 2006, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services assigned the following ratings to Jyske Bank – Long-term senior rating 'A', positive outlook, and shortterm rating 'A-1'.

To verify the status of any questionable entity claiming to be authorised to provide financial services in the BVI, the public is invited to contact the BVI Financial Services Commission.

Friday, October 20, 2006

BVI Government Warns the Publics on Royal Dominion

The BVI FSC has published the press release of the BVI Government regarding Royal Dominion. The statement was issued on 16 October, 2006 and its posting on the official website of BVI FSC has the similar purpose as issuing Advisory Warnings, which would protect the publics from misunderstanding or even scams.

It is stated in this release that the attention of the BVI Government was attracted by the website www.royaldominion.com, offering “honorary knighthoods” to the purchasers and pretending that those sales are sanctioned by the Government of the British Virgin Islands. In its turn, the Government considered it necessary to inform the publics that it has no association with Royal Dominion, nor it has empowered the proprietor of the site to sell this or any other kind of good or service.

The disclaimer that appears at the bottom of the site and acknowledges that there is no affiliation of Royal Dominion to the BVI Government is also mentioned in the statement. However, it is noted that the presence of the disclaimer does not materially alter the whole case of a clear effort to create a false impression.

The Attorney General of the BVI is going to start an investigation on this matter, and the consumers are warned about using this site and divulging any personal information.

There could be some kind of misspelling, as regards the website address named in the statement: it is mentioned as www.royaldominion.com, since the right address of the dubious site would be www.royaldominion.vg.

When visiting the site royaldominion.vg, to obtain our own point of view on this case, we could really see there not only BVI flag and BVI seal, but also pictures of Her majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Excellency Mr David Peary Governor of the British Virgin Islands. Along with using the symbols of the country, the site's main offer is to purchase the Honorary Knighthood. The website states that the Royal Dominion has offered Knighthood Causa Honoris to the public for more than a decade, with more than 200,000 recipients of the award from around the world in more than 200 countries. The honorary knighthood is positioned as “a prestigious and extraordinary award that is affordable for any budget”. The site also states that the honorary knighthood you will purchase will be published and recorded annually in book form in the United Kingdom Patent Office.

Such a “knighthood” is offered for as less as GBP 25 and also a small picture of the Certificate with BVI seal is published.

Taking in mind that Government of BVI has published this statement, the way how the information is posted on the site royaldominion .vg very much resembles an unfair advertisement or even a scam.

Monday, October 16, 2006

BVI appoints the head of TRC

The previous blogposts have already discussed telecommunications, first of all, regarding BVI improvements in this area (telecom reform, lowering rates and choosing GSM network provider) and then regarding 809 area code scams. This one is about improvements.

Now the newly-formed agency that will regulate the liberalised telecommunications industry of the BVI has its head. On October 9, 2006, the BVI Executive Council appointed David Iverson to be the first Chief Executive Officer of the new Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) for the 3-year period. Iverson holds a master’s degree in telecommunications policy and a bachelor’s of arts in business administration, political science and history.

He has been working in the areas of telecommunications sector reform, utility project and institutional capacity building for 25 years. Iverson has worked on major assignments to design regulatory organisation and policy design in Indonesia, Ghana, Malawi, Albania, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda,Togo, Nigeria and South Africa.

Iverson is now responsible for creating and then managing the TRC, associated with the Ministry of Communications and Works, determining the financial and staff resources required by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, establishing offices and developing of internal procedures of the TRC, developing and implementing the new telecommunications and radio regulatory regime.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ogier and WSmiths merger to create offshore powerhouse

Full service offshore law firm Ogier has merged with WSmiths in the British Virgin Islands, which gives the firm access to three further offshore jurisdictions. The merger will be effective from 1 February 2007.

The merger will create a large offshore company with 9 offices, including the BVI, the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Hong Kong, Guernsey, London, Ireland, Uruguay and New Zealand. The combined company will employ over 600 staff under the brand of Ogier. The companies have already begun the integration of their services and operations.

The group will be able to offer its customers advice on various aspects of the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Channel Islands law supporting all the financial markets including the dynamically developing Asian and Chinese markets.

So, Ogier’s reach will be extended into the BVI, Hong Kong and Montevideo where it has not had presence yet. Ogier has already experienced growth through merger with Boxalls, the 1st transatlantic merger of offshore firms, in 2003.

Ogier chairman Jonathan White said they are planning to provide services from all key offshore jurisdictions, which is realistic because of this merger, and that the merger moves they closer to becoming the undisputed market leader.

WSmiths was formed in the BVI 5 years ago. The company has quickly gained the respect of the market as a leading offshore firm. WSmiths was shortlisted for the HighNets Awards as “Offshore Advisers of the Year 2005” and as “Offshore Law Firm of the Year” by The Lawyer in 2006. Currently, it has a turnover of USD 5 million.

WSmiths managing partner Duncan Smith said that the merger is an exciting opportunity to move further with an enhanced multi-jurisdictional capability.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Launching BVI Shipping Registry

On September 27, 2006, the BVI Shipping Registry was officially launched. Governor David Pearey shared his expectations to see prestigious vessels docking at BVI harbour and having Road Town as their home port. Pearey commented upon the pluses the Shipping Registry would give to the British Virgin Islands. This will improve operations as well as ensure regulating and inspecting all BVI ships well.

The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, formed through a merger of the Shipping Registry Division of the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission and the Marine Unit of the Ministry of Communications and Works and working under the authority of the Chief Minister’s Office, is a branch of one of the oldest and most prestigious registries in the world – the UK General Registry of British Ships, traditionally known as the Red Ensign Group. By the way, in 1996 the BVI hosted the Annual Red Ensign Group Conference and used the occasion to raise the question of upgrading the Registry to Category One.

The Shipping Registry is a new department within the Office of the Chief Minister headed by Captain Baboucar Sallah. This newest Government department will provide ship registration and survey service for local as well as foreign boat owners in accordance with the merchant shipping legislation.

Sallah confirmed that moving further in the right direction Category One may be formally granted to the BVI in January 2007. As was discussed in April, BVI Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith has emphasized the importance to move toward Category One status quickly. For the British Virgin Islands this is an significant step to placing the country at the pinnacle of the Maritime world.

The Maritime Coast Guard Association (MCGA) has agreed to field a Category One Monitoring Mission beginning on October 16. So, if having passed the muster, Category One will be granted to the BVI.

The new registry will not only meet the needs of seafarers, but also become a source of revenue to the BVI. Dr. D. Orlando Smith suggests that upgrading to Category One in the shipping industry, the revenue earned by the BVI would be allocated to improve social services including the modernisation of healthcare services, schools and roads. When speaking at the launch, the Chief Minister emphasized the long-term connection of the sea and the people of the BVI. The Registry hopes to capitalise on the BVI’s advantage of becoming the sailing capital of the world to attract vessels from all over the world to register, so that the BVI flag would ply the seas. At present, the Registry certify only pleasure vessels of up to 400 GRT (gross registered tonnage), 150 GRT retained for commercial vessels.

The Registry’s mandates are as follows:

  • implementing and enforcing the regulations applicable to all Virgin Island vessels on domestic and international routes, and those navigating in the waters of the Virgin Islands;
  • implementing the Maritime policies of the Government that cover shipping operations, safety of life at sea, securing and the prevention pollution from ships as well as response to pollution;
  • developing and adopting appropriate standards of training elevation and certification for Virgin Island seafarers and on-shore staff in accordance with the needs of the international and domestic shipping and the BVI maritime industry;
  • provide timely and appropriate information and advice to the Government, public and private organisations and to the public.

The advantages of the BVI Shipping Registry are as follows:

  • the BVI Registry is a member of the Red Ensign Group, so ships flying the BVI flag are entitled to British Diplomatic/Consular support and the protection of the Royal Navy;
  • access to the technical expertise of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency;
  • low Initial Registration and Annual Maintenance Fees;
  • the facilities provide secure registration of yachts, mortgages and discharge of mortgages;
  • the change or transfer of ownership or title to the vessel is easily verified with the Registry;
  • a fully computerised Fleet Management System and Database.

It is worth mentioning that the launch of the Shipping Registry coincides with the observation of World Maritime Week observed under the theme "Technical co-operation: IMO’s response to the 2005 World Summit." World Maritime Week is focused on the importance of maritime security, shipping safety and the marine environment.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Postal Code system for more efficient Mail Service

The updates of the BVI telecommunication system concerning the MPLS networking solution and lowered mobile rates were followed by another infrastructure improvement in the BVI. On Thursday, September 21, BVI Government has announced about the adoption of a postal code system in the British Virgin Islands. The Post Office (Amendment) Rules, 2006, which will formally introduce postal codes, will be laid at the next sitting of Legislative Council. After the Legislative Council of the BVI adopts the postal codes, it will become the 118th country in the world to have postal codes, which lead to more efficient mail service.

The adoption of postal codes will increase the accessibility of mail for country residents and citizens, and give them additional benefit of being able to more easily engage in Internet and mail catalogue shopping. The new postal code system also brings great improvements to the process of delivery of international mail to the British Virgin Islands, and the citizens of the other countries having business ties with the BVI will feel these advantages when sending mail to the country. This will probably strengthen the infrastructure of the BVI as well as its positions as an International Business Center.

The preparations for implementing new system of postal codes include training the Post Office staff in the use of post codes; this training will be conducted also with trust companies, banks, utility companies, and all the major users of the postal service. The BVI Post Office and the Department of Information and Public Relations will organise a public education campaign to inform the community on the changes.

Postal codes are unique combinations of letters and numbers that are used to clearly identify the destination of mail. These are issued by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), an international organisation based in Switzerland, whose main task is to foster cooperation between postal-sector players and ensure a truly universal network of up-to-date services. About 190 countries and territories are members of this organisation.