EAC to harmonise air traffic control
East African civil aviation authorities are in talks to streamline their operations, a move that will see free movement of aircrafts in the region’s airspace.
Speaking to The New Times, the Director General of Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA), who is also a board member of the regional Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA), Richard Masozera, explained that the move is in line with the regional initiative to liberalise the aviation market.
Failure to harmonise the operations is currently regarded as the biggest challenge hindering the growth of the region’s air transport sector.
“Aviation is growing in general; more airlines are coming in the region, more people are travelling and economies are performing better, meaning that investments in intra-regional and international travel are expanding, that’s why we are trying to make EAC accessible to everybody,” he said.
According to Masozera when the plan matures, aircrafts will be able to freely fly to all regional airports without restrictions, meaning that competition will be high, causing the reduction in air transport fares.
Apparently for a plane to fly to another country it has to pay airspace fees causing limited access to all areas in a particular member state.
For example, in this case a Kenyan plane will be allowed to fly to all Rwandan airports without any barrier.
The aviation authorities under CASSOA, meet every three month to assess their safety and security challenges where they share information and seek to harmonise operations in different areas.
So far, some areas have been synchronized like the standards the aircrafts operate under, the operation of pilots, meteorology and communication.
Masozera explained that they were empowering the CASSOA Secretariat with competent and sufficient staff who would be monitoring the implementation of their agreements.
“We need to be inspected to ensure that what we agree is respected….we need inspectors who can come and carry out regular audit to ensure that our objective is realised.”
According to the EAC Treaty, signed by Heads of State, article 92 states that partner states shall undertake to make air transport services safe, efficient and profitable; adopt common policies for the development of civil transport in the region.
It further says that member countries have to harmonise civil aviation rules and regulations and coordinate measures and cooperate in the maintenance of high security.
Cyprian Kabeera, the Rwanda and Burundi country manager of Air Uganda, said that the aviation will never develop in the region unless the operations are harmonised.
He cited high operation costs, including airports taxes, what he said are some of the bottlenecks derailing the development of the sector.
He further said that the region is besieged by high protectionist policies.
“Harmonising the operating systems is everyone’s dream in this sector …Can you imagine when you want to travel by Air Uganda to Nairobi you have to pass through Entebbe instead of going direct? These are the issues they have to address for the sector to develop,” he said
He observed that the operational costs are also high, and that each country charges different airport taxes, as well as expensive fuel costs. When an air ticket is sold, Uganda charge USD$50, Rwanda USD$37, Burundi USD$40 while Tanzania charges about USD$47.
The other challenges are high parking and landing fees, navigation as well as lighting fee.
Navigation fee means that a plane flying above another country has to pay a certain amount.
“In Europe everything has been harmonised, they have an open sky policy, there are no restrictions. That’s why their transportation is not expensive like in East Africa.”
“We need one single payment body instead of paying everywhere, this will ease our operations.”
Air transport costs in the east African region are regarded as the most expensive in the world.
Masozera added that they planned to establish a regional Upper Control Centre to help monitor the movement of aircrafts with the aim of enhancing security and safety. The new centre will be in charge of controlling the upper space only as the lower control centre would remain national.
By Eric Kabeera, The New Times
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