Downgrading of HKIA temporary: Nghimtina

24 Jul 2014 19:20pm
WINDHOEK, 24 JUL (NAMPA) - The Minister of Works and Transport, Erkki Nghimtina says the Airport Rescue and Fire-fighting (ARFF) downgrading of the Hosea Kutako International Airport to category five is temporary.
Nghimtina made the remarks in Parliament on Thursday in response to a question posed to him by the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP)'s Heiko Lucks on what the current status of the airport is and what is being done to rectify it.
Lucks told the house that he learned with shock and dismay on national television on Thursday morning that the international airport had been downgraded and that Air Namibia planes could not land at the airport.
Nghimtina responded that for all countries in the world there is only one United Nations (UN) body that controls aviation.
He explained that for any country’s international airport to be rated, it is important to invite International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) validated teams to check whether a country is ready to fly to other countries or whether other countries are safe to come into a country or fly over the country’s space.
“Thus what you need mostly is compliance to ICAO requirements,” he informed the House.
ICAO is a specialised agency of the UN. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
Nghimtina said following an audit on the airport carried out by ICAO on Monday, the organisation found that only one fire-fighting truck was operational.
He said what is “bizarre” is the fact that when the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) carried out its own mock audit two weeks before ICAO arrived, all three fire-fighting trucks were operational.
“Namibia’s international airport thus had to be downgraded from category nine to five. The situation is only temporal and not permanent,” the works and transport minister promised.
The minister however also noted that the NAC has procured 11 fire trucks via public tender. The first delivery of two trucks was made on Wednesday.
“What we are going to do now is start training our people on the operation of the trucks which will commence next Monday. It will run for a period of four days whereafter the new trucks will be commissioned into operation by 01 August this year,” he said.
Nghimtina pointed out that he does not know exactly what could have gone wrong with the malfunctioning of the trucks, saying perhaps it was down to human error or the technology used in the trucks.
The NAC also issued a media statement on Thursday saying the second batch of fire trucks will be delivered in the first week of August.
It indicated that the NAC has been given 15 days to address issues identified as being critical by ICAO. It however did not elaborate on what these issues are.
“NAC would like to assure the public that we are and remain confident of meeting these deadlines as agreed upon by ICAO,” the statement said.