ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — Caribbean civil aviation officials are being encouraged to maintain a high level of air safety and security. Doing so is in the interest of citizens and visitors to the region, Grenada’s Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister told a meeting in St George’s of the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS).
“The issue of safety of our citizens and visitors cannot be over emphasized,” Peter David said at the fifth meeting of the board of directors of CASSOS in Grand Anse.
Among regional and international groups represented at the one-week meeting, which ended Friday, were the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration of the United States; the Caribbean Community (CARICOM); the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA); and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
CASSOS, David said, has a critical role to play in the Caribbean.
“Your mandate of assisting State-parties in meeting their obligations under the Chicago Convention and achieving and maintaining full compliance with the ICAO’s standards and procedures, as well as the harmonization of regulations, are critically important responsibilities,” the Grenada minister stressed.
“Safety and security in the civil aviation industry,’’ he added, “are an international concern and should be even more so to us in this region, given our heavy dependence on the tourism sector.”
David warned that “the failure of our airports to comply with established standards by ICAO can result in aircraft refusing to operate in our destinations. This will certainly seriously impact the number of visitors coming to our shores. Additionally, it takes only one accident in our region to devastate our tourism sector.”
In the context of the global economic crisis, and with difficulties in the production and export of agricultural crops in the region, “tourism has become our number one income generator. It is therefore critical, ladies and gentlemen, to do all that is necessary to ensure that we continue to maintain air safety and security,” David said.
Grenada and other countries in the OECS sub-region are represented at CASSOS through the ECCAA.
The Grenadian Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister said CASSOS and ECCAA must continue to coexist.
“ECCAA is one of the success stories of what regional unity and co-operation can achieve,” David said. “Over the years, ECCAA has provided advice and safety, security and regulatory oversight to OECS governments on civil aviation matters. They would be expected to play an even greater role as we move forward to full economic integration. It is in our best interest to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of ECCAA is preserved.”
The minister said that, while there have been suggestions in some quarters about the amalgamation of ECCAA into CASSOS, he believes that “both organizations have very important roles to play and should be kept separately at this time.”
He made reference to CARICOM and the OECS, where each functions “independently’’ but “effectively” collaborates.
“We must be conscious of the fact that while we are small states in a common region, the OECS has its very own peculiar circumstances,” said David. “CASSOS and ECCAA must, therefore, collaborate and work closely together.