05 Apr 2016 07:10am
WINDHOEK, 05 APR (NAMPA) Africa remains one of the fastest growing air travel markets but faces numerous challenges due to deficiencies that are of a regulatory or oversight nature, such as the persistent systematic safety related deficiency that tarnishes the images of State-owned airlines.
This makes compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards and recommended practices difficult.
Addressing participants at a five-day ministerial conference on Aviation Security and Facilitation here on Monday, Minister of Works and Transport Alpheus !Naruseb said systematic safety related deficiencies in the State's regulatory oversight capability invariably affects the State in many ways.
He said with the safety deficiency, various decisions can be made but without taking other states into consideration, while aviation travel always involves more than one state and airlines always wish to expand routes but cannot due to safety restrictions. This you all know is an unenviable position for any state because this opens up a floodgate for unilateral actions that other states may consider against air carriers registered in the said state. It is therefore important to ensure a balancing act in resource allocation, particularly where the state acts in both capacities - as a service provider and as a regulator.
He said air carriers with good products and excellent route networks are often the first to be affected or rendered ineffective when the State's safety or security oversight capability is questionable, adding that African air carriers cannot compete fairly with mega air carriers when subjected to operational bans.
Airlines are too often blacklisted or allocated unattractive slots because they are flagships from a State considered incapable of carrying out its security oversight responsibilities effectively.
He noted that a United Nation's World Trade Organisation study carried out in 2013 indicated a total of 55.7 million international tourist arrivals to the 10 most visited African countries were recorded, with Namibia featuring at number nine but not at all on the international top 10.
This is an estimated 5,5 per cent increase from 2012, but none of the African countries featured in the top 10 most visited countries internationally.
However, the 55.7 million arrivals, he explained speak volumes and attest that Africa is still a relevant tourist destination collectively.
Our challenge therefore is to implement ICAO standards and recommended practices to inspire confidence in our security oversight capability individually and collectively, the minister said.
!Naruseb mentioned that there are undoubtedly numerous untapped opportunities to enhance aviation security and facilitation requirements but their impact has been very minimal because of man-made barriers.
He therefore called on the international conference attendees to commit a common road map that will address these challenges Africa is experiencing at national, regional and continental level.
Namibia, he stressed is in the process of making the most painful adjustments by reversing years of unparalleled investments in favour of State-owned service provisioning utilities such as Air Namibia and the Namibia Airports Company (NAC).
The Works and Transport Minister said for too long, there were unparalleled investments in human, technical and operational capability in service provisioning utilities without commiserating investments in the regulatory oversight capabilities.
The new Civil Aviation Bill that was recently passed in Parliament will substantially strengthen Namibias national legislation and create an enabling environment as part of a global effort supporting air transport consumer protection, consumer confidence and the long term commercial success of the aviation industry. The Bill, in essence, gives the civil aviation director more authority to regulate the industry to ensure that international standards are met.
Namibia is signatory to, and has ratified various international conventions such as the Tokyo (offences on board aircraft); Hague (unlawful seizure of aircraft); and Montreal (safety in civil aviation, unlawful acts at airports) Conventions.
Namibia, he added, is in the process of preparing its first ICAO Comprehensive Validation Mission on Aviation Security and Facilitation under the ICAO Continuous Monitoring Approach under Universal Security Audit Programme, which as launched in 1999 provides the procedure and a credible audit of ICAO member states aviation industry to ensure safety on various levels.
The conference in Windhoek ends on Friday.