ECCAA downgrade has ‘nothing to do with safety and security of our airports’: Gonsalves

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ECCAA downgrade has ‘nothing to do with safety and security of our airports’: Gonsalves
PM Gonsalves
PM Gonsalves

(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.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It has everything to do with safety. There are no specialized sea or helicopter search and rescue facilities at Argyle airport. If there was a crash there would be a huge problem getting people to a hospital. There are insufficient hospital beds or medical facilities to deal with an aircraft accident. Kingstown could be an hour away by ambulance.

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  2. But the ECCAA downgrade has everything to do with politics, an area in which individuals at the top seem to take ALL of the credit for good and NONE of the blame for bad.

    PM Gonsalves himself appointed the current D-G of ECCAA, an individual who was not qualified for the position except that he was a Comrade with PM Gonsalves with Maurice Bishop's Revolution in Grenada.

    PM Gonsalves himself also put LIAT's very existence in jeopardy by having a new ATR land at his new airport which was unfinished, uncertified, uninsured and unready. There was also a large hole where the last third of the runway was supposed to be, at the location of the drainage culverts under the runway. Had the aircraft ANY problem, landing or taking off, insurance would not have covered ground, aircraft, personnel or passenger claims, and LIAT may well have had to close.

    It has been openly admitted that ECCAA knew about these problems some time ago. Not only the D-G but all of the politicians involved share the blame for not identifying the remaining issues with regulations and/or legislation. Unless the D-G followed it up and/or insisted on progress, bureaucrats would have - and did - stumble along at their own slow pace.

    The FAA is well known not to want to see political direction in a CAA. That is why a DCA (Directorate of Civil Aviation) never gets Category One - because a DCA is under a Ministry of Government and is directed and headed by a Minister.

    A CAA is supposed to be independent of political direction and influence, if only because it is in part a safety institution. If a CAA cannot over see the items under its control - from airports to airlines to security - then the FAA will give it a fail in that area too.

    Caribbean politicians are so accustomed to people jumping when they make demands that when someone - like the FAA - comes along who don't give a damn what they want, they fall into a kind of low stupidity (greater than normal) and bluster nonsense for public consumption, trying to shift any possible blame away from themselves. In this case, the D-G needs to go, but if removed he will also carry the political blame from those governments whose legislation is still enroute.

    So the politicians and bureaucrats win again.

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