‘Seychelles Airlines’ trading name should be restored on the business register, says Seychelles Supreme Court Judge
The Seychelles' courts building 'Palais de Justice' at Ile du Port. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles Supreme Court has ruled that the original registration of a new airline company as 'Seychelles Airlines' was valid and has ordered the island nation's Registrar of Companies to restore the same on the register of business names.
Judge Gustave Dodin gave the ruling yesterday, at the end of a case where Intershore Aviation, the company that owns Seychelles Airline had appealed against justifications given by the Registrar of Companies as to why the trading name 'Seychelles Airlines,' was cancelled.
The reasons had been submitted to Intershore Aviation in May this year, after Supreme Court Judge Fiona Robinson had upheld the appeal of the company's owners which was contesting the registrar’s decision to cancel the name Seychelles Airlines.
The latest appeal was heard by Judge Dodin after Judge Robinson excused herself from the case stating that she is the sister of the Registrar General, Wendy Pierre.
In his final judgement on Wednesday, Judge Dodin presented a number of arguments based on the reasons presented by the registrar, which led him to uphold the appeal filed by Intershore Aviation.
On the claim that the word ‘Seychelles’ suggest the business enjoys ‘patronage of the government’ Dodin said this "has not been established and is not sustainable." He came to the same conclusion regarding the registrar’s stance that the word ‘Seychelles’ might mislead the public and convey the impression that the new airline is a subsidiary of Air Seychelles, [the Seychelles national airline].
“…The reasons advanced by the Registrar that in the Registrar’s opinion, the name would confuse clients, the public and airline stakeholders and regulators with the impression that Air Seychelles and Seychelles Airlines are not independent, have not been established and are not reasonable or sustainable,” added Dodin.
Company names that include the word ‘Seychelles’, are generally reserved for government- owned entities, but the Registrar’s office can at their own discretion, allow the word, Seychelles, to be used, based on individual cases.
Notable examples of private businesses whose names contain the word ‘Seychelles’ include Seychelles Breweries, Today in Seychelles and Seychelles Connect.
Currently, there is only one aviation company in the country, and in the rest of the world, which has the word 'Seychelles' in it, and that is the national airline Air Seychelles. Air Seychelles was established in 1977 and adopted the present title in September 1978. The airline was wholly owned by the Seychelles government until January 2012 when UAE's national airline Etihad Airways bought a 40 percent share of Air Seychelles leaving the Seychelles government with the remaining 60 percent ownership.
Section 17 of the Registration of Business Names Act of 1972 makes provision for the registrar to refuse to register any firm, individual or corporation carrying on business under a business name based on a number of reasons.
Judge Dodin noted however that the Registrar of Companies which acted on a letter of objection from the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, SCAA, "had failed to apply the mind judiciously or at all to factors that were necessary to be considered in exercising the discretion given under section 17 (1) (d) of the act."
Contacted by SNA, the Registrar General, Wendy Pierre, said the Registrar of Companies will be instructing its legal representative, in this case, the Attorney General’s Office to appeal the decision.
The matter relating to the trading name of the new airline was first brought before the Court in December 2013.
Intershore Aviation was contesting demands made by the Seychelles Registrar that the airline’s trading name should be changed to exclude the word ‘Seychelles.’ The company argued that they had already been legally approved and registered by the registrar under the name ‘Seychelles Airlines’ since August 2013.
Intershore Aviation, a company which is owned by prominent lawyer and politician Phillipe Boullé, then brought another case before the Court in November 2014 after it was informed that the name Seychelles Airlines had been struck off the Companies Register.
The dispute had stalled the company's attempts to obtain an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) from local aviation authorities. The Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, SCAA, Gilbert Faure had explained in September last year, that “on advice of their legal counsel, they were unable to process the application of Seychelles Airlines for an Air Operators certificate (AOC) as the matter was sub judice or pending court judgement.”
Seychelles Airlines’ Chief Executive Ahmed Afif, has told SNA that Wednesday's ruling by the Seychelles Supreme Court is what the company expected although he expressed disappointment that two years down the line since the name ‘Seychelles Airlines’ was registered, the company is nowhere close to receiving a license to operate.
"It’s a major step...now we hope that will convince the authorities, which is the SCAA that we should now be granted our air operations certificate followed by an air transport license," said Afif.
“I really think that SCAA will have no leg to stand on if it says that this will now have to wait because of an appeal, the decision was very clear, the name stands right now…If in five years they say the name does not stand [and] we are already operating then we will change the name and follow the law of the land.”
Initially, Seychelles Airlines had indicated that it plans to start off with five non-stop weekly flights to Europe, including Paris, Rome and Cologne in Germany.
"We will go ahead with our project, we will modify our plan if we have to, given that there are other players in the market, but we remain very confident that the market has enough place for new players to come in, and for us to offer value added contribution to Seychelles…," said Afif.