Efforts to restore safety rating for regional civil aviation authority

Antigua’s VC Bird International Airport is affected by the lower rating
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OECS government heads are striving to get the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) reclassified to its former category one rating. Several decisions were made following a special meeting on Sunday, chaired by Prime Minister Gaston Browne. 

Last week, the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was downgrading the authority yet again because “it does not comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards”.

The lower category two rating covers Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The ECCAA has however denied claims that its policies call into question the safety and security of the region’s airports and airlines, and said that the outstanding matters are regulatory issues which heads of government seemed keen on rectifying promptly.

Of the 14 key recommendations outlined by the FAA, the ECCAA said it had been able to quickly address and implement 11 of them.

“The remaining three suggestions required legislative changes from each member state and, although underway, were not yet completed at the time of this recent assessment,” the authority stated in a press statement.

It also noted that this change in status will not affect the day-to-day running of regional airports and airlines.

The meeting took several more decisions that addressed areas such as sustainable financing of the ECCAA, resolution of outstanding regulatory matters, administrative and operational strengthening of the ECCAA and joint strategic diplomatic outreach.

The amendment of legislation that empowers the ECCAA director general to develop, issue and revise operating regulations were among the top recommendations made. The meeting mandated that the OECS Commission serve as the implementing body on these matters to ensure that resolution is timely and government heads are continuously informed on the progress.

ECCAA member states have also agreed to settle all arrears to the institution and to keep payments current. Attendees considered the recommendation to adopt the payment model of Antigua and Barbuda by dedicating assignment of airport or other fees towards subvention payments.

The Authority has also agreed to the implementation of a diplomatic démarche in Washington to ensure an ongoing dialogue with the FAA and to facilitate a deeper understanding of the nuances within the organisation.

According to the communique, “Sir Ronald Sanders, permanent representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the Organisation of American States (OAS), will head the diplomatic mission with support from strategic private individuals.”

In addition, government heads have committed to move “expeditiously” to resolve other outstanding regulatory issues as outlined by the FAA assessment, including the completion and gazetting of promulgations on civil aviation safety oversight regulations by all member states and the passage of legislation regarding Article 83 bis to the Chicago Convention in the respective member states.

The latter establishes agreements for the transfer of certain oversight responsibilities from the state of registry to the state of the operator. The Convention includes the principal that an aircraft registered in a contracting state must comply with the laws and safety regulations that apply to aircraft generally in that state, irrespective of where the aircraft is operated. 

“Heads of government critically examined the structure and capacity of the ECCAA with a view to ensuring the institution can fulfill its mandate. An offer by the … ICAO to provide training and an organisational and structural review of the institution was once again discussed and unanimously endorsed by heads,” the statement noted.

The meeting also deliberated on the appointment of representatives to the ECCAA board of directors and committed to acting speedily in the selection of candidates. Heads further considered the matter of succession planning.

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