A two-day conference of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) has opened in Accra, with a call on African states to increase collaboration and partnership to address concerns in the African aviation sector.
The two-day conference, on the theme: “Ensuring safe and efficient airspace — Separating regulation from service provision”, will address how air navigation service providers (ANSPs) can work in partnership with one another to improve safety across the region.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, the Director General of CANSO, Mr Jeff Poole, said safety was the utmost priority of the organisation and partnership was a pillar of its strategic framework for the air traffic management (ATM) Vision 2020.
He said it was important for ANSPs to be independent of the regulator and their services run as a normal business, able to make its own investment decisions, offer improved performance and be much more customer focused than they had been.
Mr Poole noted that separation was, however, a major problem in air traffic management, as revenue collected by ANSPs was handed over to governments, which then allocated a budget to the ANSPs.
“We would like to see a much more self-efficient arrangement where ANSPs have control over their revenue and costs and can operate like a normal business. The government then becomes a controlling shareholder by setting the regulatory framework and driving certain performance targets for the ANSPs,” Mr Poole said, adding that there was evidence that that was a better system than having one institution play both roles.
He said although Africa’s safety record was improving, it still had a poor safety record, compared to other regions, and lauded the move by CANSO members in Africa to sign a declaration agreeing to commit to the Africa ANSP Safety Initiative, a peer review mechanism to address critical issues in aviation transport management.
This follows the agreement by African states and their ANSPs to implement the peer review mechanism, which has so far been conducted in countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
“We hope to have all CANSO members in Africa participating by the end of this conference, and at the CANSO Africa Conference 2017 we will present a progress report,” Mr Poole added.
The Minister of Transport, Mr Fifi Kwetey, who also addressed the participants, said the conference had provided an opportunity for Ghana to tap into the knowledge of independent ANSPs in its ongoing quest to de-couple the ANSP from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), which currently played both roles.
He said the country stood to gain a lot from separating the regulator from the service provider, including the elimination of conflicts of interest, increased operational efficiency and safety performance.
“There is an urgent need for increased collaboration and coordination among ANSPs,” he said, and urged them to emulate the airline industry’s demonstration of how alliances and collaboration through code sharing arrangements could create synergies and bring about efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Mr Simon Allotey, the Director General of the GCAA, host of the conference, said African ANSPs could collaborate on some infrastructure issues such as using only a few aeronautical VISA networks for the Accra Flight Information Region.
“Africa must put aside political sovereignty and cultural considerations and create the needed synergies to ensure capacity optimisation and enhance safety and efficiency in our air navigation services delivery,” he said.