(SEARCHLIGHT) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed that the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) is not compliant with certain international safety standards, and has assigned it a category two rating, down from a category one.
However, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has indicated that the downgrade is due to an oversight by ECCAA and has nothing to do with the safety and security of our airports.
It was announced by the FAA recently that due to non-compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards, the OECS, assessed under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, has been moved from a category one to a category two.
This information was published by the online site, Eturbo News which reports on Global Travel Industry News.
The FAA under the IASA program assesses the civil aviation authorities of those countries with air carriers that have applied to fly to the United States (US), are currently flying to the US, “or participate in code-sharing arrangements with US partner airlines.”
ECCAA oversees aviation security for Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A category two IASA rating means either that laws or regulations lack the necessary requirements to oversee air carriers “in accordance with minimum international standards.”
Or it could mean a civil aviation authority like ECCAA is deficient in areas such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, inspection procedures or the resolution of safety concerns.
Speaking on Star radio yesterday, May 11, the Prime Minister first assured “this (loss of category one status) is in relation to the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation authority oversight, this has nothing to do with the safety and security of our airports.”
“This doesn’t affect planes coming to us,” he also stated.
Despite the downgrade, existing services will continue, but will be limited to what existed at the time of the assessment, he said.
“For instance LIAT, which goes to Puerto Rico and goes to US Virgin Islands, those will continue.”
The Prime Minister disclosed that the FAA assessment revealed 14 deficiencies, and eleven of them were corrected.
“The three which are yet to be corrected involve the question of something called article 83 B,” Gonsalves informed.
He explained that regarding this article, one signs on to it, “but you need to put it inside of an institutional, legal framework in your domestic legislation.”
This has not happened, he revealed.
Secondly, there are regulations that need to be gazetted in “several” countries, he noted.
Finally, what the Prime Minister revealed to be the FAA’s biggest grievance, is that the existing Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Act needs to be amended.
He continued that, under the current Act, the Ministers in the respective countries make the regulations, but the FAA “wants the Director-General of ECCAA to be the one to make regulations, not the Minister.”
“They are not major issues in respect of with which things cannot be corrected,” the Prime Minister stated.
“….These are really administrative, legislative matters,” Gonsalves reiterated.
He further indicated that he had written to the FAA in February, particularly about the amendment that needed to be made to the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Act.
The Prime Minister said that he wrote that “each Parliament had to pass that law and I told them that they just couldn’t get it done within the time frame.”
He said that the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic made this more challenging.
“…It appears as though some of the persons who review for FAA don’t quite follow that there are six independent states, we’re not a unitary state and we’re not a Federation,” he added.
Gonsalves reiterated that it was “just” paperwork and legislative time, and “the consequences don’t affect LIAT in any adverse way at the moment… because existing services can continue in the US territories, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but we don’t have anything to go to the mainland of the USA.”
He ended by noting that Barbados had the “greatest airlift” in the Caribbean and it has a category two status.
“…We should not have been in a situation where these things were not done but the time was too short between the assessment and when the hammer was brought down,” the Prime Minister concluded.
The category 2 rating covers Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.