Bermuda ‘behind’ in space race

  • Call to action: Philip Perinchief (File photograph)

    Call to action: Philip Perinchief (File photograph)

  • Visiting expert: Sara Langston, an assistant professor in space flight operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, delivered a talk about space law to lawyers in Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

    Visiting expert: Sara Langston, an assistant professor in space flight operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, delivered a talk about space law to lawyers in Bermuda (Photograph supplied)


A former attorney-general and expert in space law claimed yesterday that a comprehensive plan was needed for Bermuda to capitalise on its satellite slots.

Philip Perinchief said the country had to have a more aggressive approach to make sure the island was not left behind as technology in the $277 billion industry evolved.

He was backed by Sara Langston, a visiting expert who highlighted that Bermuda was well placed to make the most of its good international relations.

Four satellite orbital slots — areas where a satellite can operate — were allocated to Bermuda by the International Telecommunication Union in 1983.

One slot hosted its first satellite in 2013 but it is understood there have been none added to any of the slots since then.

Mr Perinchief said: “In my view, we have been going along a path which is somewhat disjointed and inconsistent.

“I think we have to put out there a consistent and coherent policy to commercialise all of our slots but, in particular, the one that we have a satellite in because from 2003 or 2004 up to now it has been fits and starts and we really need something consistent, coherent and connected.”

He added: “Competition is so high in this industry that if we don’t adopt a more aggressive approach and a consistent approach, others will come in and fill the void and that, in my view, is what’s happening even with Jamaica right now.

“Jamaica have it in the works to develop a slot. Hopefully, it won’t be a threat to Bermuda’s commercialisation.”

The State of the Satellite Industry Report 2019 said the global space economy was worth $360 billion last year.

Of that, 77 per cent, or $277.4 billion, was generated by the satellite industry, with telecommunications the biggest sector.

Mr Perinchief said that expanding Bermuda’s participation was likely to boost the public purse and create jobs.

He explained: “It’s renting real estate in the sky.

“Government’s coffers will be filled and we’d be better positioned to look after our budget.”

He added that there could be opportunities to create partnerships with other countries or private companies, but political will to achieve that was needed.

Mr Perinchief suggested that an agency set up to harness domestic and foreign expertise could work alongside aviation and shipping bodies and that Bermuda could expand its maritime work through the use of surveillance or reconnaissance satellites.

Mr Perinchief and Dr Langston, an assistant professor in space flight operations at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, delivered a presentation to about 25 lawyers and interested others in Bermuda last week.

They explained some of the problems in keeping up with space law as the industry progressed.

Dr Langston said yesterday that she had learnt about the island’s “long history” of strong ties to the UK, the US and Europe and that these were a good foundation for development.

She added: “Bermuda, historically has been a strategic place in between continents, but this adds a further layer.”

The professor, who was a classmate with Mr Perinchief when the two studied air and space law at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said that it was important to establish a “niche expertise”.

Dr Langston added: “It also gives industry a chance. As you’re still developing, this is an optimal time for industry to give their input because if you just build the regulations separate to the needs of the industry — and the industry is dynamic — then they’re going to be outdated by the time it comes to implement.”

She explained that Bermuda must work through the UK, which makes sure that its Overseas Territories comply with the Outer Space Treaty and legal regimes, which are supported by international negotiation and co-operation.

Dr Langston added: “The industry needs stability of policy. It’s really hard for them to act when they don’t know from administration to administration what’s going to happen.”

Mr Perinchief said: “We have to broaden our vision, with respect to our regulations — one here and there and in a limited fashion is not quite enough to service a burgeoning industry that’s growing leaps and bounds almost daily.

“The new technologies are phenomenal, so we need an organisation to keep its finger on the pulse, both locally and abroad.”

The pair explained that the satellite industry affected most aspects of modern living, including paying for groceries by credit card, using social media or satellite television, delivering weather forecasts and monitoring climate change.

Mr Perinchief added: “Look around us and you can’t see any item that’s not affected by satellite technology.“

He added: “We’re trying to bring space down to Earth.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs recently launched www.space.gov.bm, a website designed to support the industry’s development.

It includes information about the Bermuda Space and Satellite Policy Advisory Group, which was established last year[2018] to give advice on the sectors, and “to serve as a vehicle for guiding Bermuda’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the satellite industry in international policy matters”.

Home affairs minister Walter Roban released the following statement today:

“This government is committed to diversifying and growing Bermuda’s economy to promote job creation for Bermudians in existing and new emerging industries.

“Through decades of involvement, Bermuda is recognised as having the necessary experience and well-earned reputation in the global space and satellite industry. This is exemplified by the fact that over the years, global leaders in this industry (Intelsat, SES, EchoStar) have made Bermuda their home.

“The government is well aware that the global space industry is approaching $300 billion and predicted to become a trillion dollar industry by 2040. It is for this reason we are leveraging our excellent reputation and success in the insurance/risk industry to capitalise on this opportunity.

“Our goal is to attract and encourage global investors and high net worth individuals in this industry, to bring their business and key personnel to Bermuda, and offer training opportunities for Bermudians.

“To that end, the Space and Satellite Policy Advisory Group was created to develop our strategic plan and ensure Bermuda is well positioned to benefit from the growing space and satellite industry.

“For information on Bermuda’s Space and Satellite Administration and the Space and Satellite Policy Advisory Group please visit the official hub of Bermuda’s Space and Satellite Administration at http://www.space.gov.bm/.

“For further information on what government is doing to capitalise on opportunities in the space and satellite industry, please refer to my ministerial statement on Emerging Space Economies and the press release on the launch of the Space and Satellite Website.

UPDATE: This story was amended to include the response from Walter Roban

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Published Aug 7, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 7, 2019 at 5:24 pm)

Bermuda ‘behind’ in space race

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