Isle of Man in Space
Boasting a space friendly business environment (featuring zero corporate income tax for space and satellite companies) the tiny island off the coast of Scotland has reportedly attracted the likes of Inmarsat, Boeing, Sea Launch, Loral, most recently SES Global, and seeks to secure a place for itself as a hub for space players.
According to Isle of Man Today, last week Tynwald -- the island's Parliament -- addressing a concern about competition for space business from places like Bermuda, Cayman, Gibraltar, Luxembourg and Singapore, approved £955,000 for "space marketing."
Tim Craine, the island's new director of space commerce (whose salary does not appear to be included in the marketing fund) says, "Tynwald will see a major return on investment many times that which has been approved. Within two years I would like to see the Island having reached a critical mass of clustering, in the space and satellite industry and have an international reputation as a prime jurisdiction."
Isle of Man treasury minister Allan Bell wants the island to be the "Switzerland of space" (-- a reference which drew a bit of teasing from The Register, but never mind).
Mr. Bell explains that the Isle of Man finds itself "in a space race of our own. An increasingly volatile and aggressive race with other jurisdictions to compete for this very lucrative economic sector. The monies will be spent on a fully integrated and co-ordinated marketing campaign and will include specific expenditure in areas such as web site development, brochures, advertising, sponsorship, speaking events, conferences, exhibitions and targeted visits."
A "volatile and aggressive space race" indeed. And what about the ongoing wrangling with Bermuda over orbital slots? Just this weekend The Royal Gazette in Bermuda following up on the issue, quoted telecommunications minister Michael Scott saying "any inference that Bermuda has lost the war that has been brewing between the two islands" over the slots was "categorically untrue" and that Bermuda and the Isle of Man are "currently engaged in coordination discussions."
Space law on the island is a work in progress. In an article last week on Isle of Man space business The Lawyer (a U.K. publication) reported that "groundbreaking" proposed legislation drafted by US space law luminary Art Dula along with Isle of Man honorary space counsel Christopher Stott (both now based in Houston) will come before the Parliament within the next six months.
The proposed legislation does not appear to be available online yet -- although I do see Manx Space Law Initiative information on ManSat's website, along with the UK Outer Space Act -- but I'll report on it when I see it. The Lawyer does have this overview:
The primary purpose of this proposed legislation would be to make the law of the Isle of Man compatible with existing international space law and to encourage Manx private activities in outer space.
The secondary aim of the proposal is to codify existing practices in outer space and torecognizee the well-established precedents already adopted by the prior activities of space powers, their space agencies and their space companies. The proposal is therefore based on existing practice and legal precedent; from the construction of the International Space Station in orbit, to the sale of lunar materials at auction and the use of solar power by geostationary satellites.
Although the proposal is a codification of existing law and practice, it would be, if enacted, nevertheless a world first. It is thought that other small jurisdictions may be considering analogous legislation to seize the initiative in this increasingly attractive area.
Meanwhile, if Art Dula or Chris Stott would like to fill us in on developments, I'd love to post their input here.
(And I'm sure we won't have to speak Manx Gaelic.)
Gura mie ayd!
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UPDATE: 1/30/06 - Chris Stott has e-mailed confirming that "the draft legislation is a direct result of the Manx Space Law Initiative." He and Art Dula received input from industry before putting together the draft. He promises updates when the proposal moves forward (at which time I'll ask again for a copy!); meanwhile, he refers us to the glossy Isle of Man space site with the cool domain, Spaceisle.com which I hadn't seen until now, and mentions the ads in Via Satellite, which I'll check out, too.