Sint Maarten shows transparency on progress to category 1 in aviation, Curaçao remains disturbingly silent
WILLEMSTAD – Recently, the representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications of Sint Maarten, namely, Louis Halley, Head of Civil Aviation, Claudius Carty, Acting Section Head of Shipping and Inspection, and Secretary General Miguel de Weever, met with the Council of Ministers of Sint Maarten to brief them with respect to the current state of affairs of both departments.
The presentation provided an update on the Category 1 and 2 statuses related to the country’s aviation sector. The Ministers in the new government of Sint Maarten were informed about the steps that need to be taken in line with International Civil Aviation Organization protocols, and International Aviation Safety Assessment standards to move Sint Maarten from a Category 2 to a Category 1 status.
The government of Sint Maarten has this process as a top priority, according to the new Minister of Transportation.
The representatives indicated that The Sint Maarten Civil Aviation, Shipping and Maritime Authority (SMCAA) is responsible for creating an efficient structure to develop and maintain policy, laws, rules and regulations for the local aviation sector, and to perform oversight on civil aviation in Sint Maarten. SMCAA has been working diligently to return the country’s aviation sector back to Category 1. In order to reach the aforementioned category, SMCAA has to complete eight critical elements, which includes legislation, regulations, training, licensing and surveillance obligations.
The Curaçao Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA) is responsible to return the Curaçao’s aviation sector back to category 1. Curaçao was downgraded to category 2 by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) after it was discovered during the audit that the island does not meet the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. Since Sint Maarten and Curacao share the same aircraft registry prefix (PJ), the Sint Maarten’s Civil Aviation Authority was also downgraded to Category 2.
The downgrade to Category 2 came with the consequence that airlines from both Sint Maarten and Curacao cannot initiate new air services to U.S. territories.
Since then Sint Maarten has been working hard to regain category 1. Recently the former Minister of Transportation approved eight aviation ministerial regulations which will assist Sint Maarten to regain Category 1 airport status. These documents form part of the Sint Maarten Civil Aviation Regulations, which, in general, totals 12 of which 10 were submitted for approval.
In Curaçao the Minister of Traffic and Transportation, Earl Balborda hired Oscar Derby, from Jamaica to help Curaçao’s aviation to regain Category 1. A year and a half later, the CCAA still has not submitted any regulations to parliament for approval. Various stakeholders in the aviation sector are wondering what is going in the CCAA and when Derby will, or the responsible Minister, report on what the progress is in this process. There is a disturbing silence in the aviation sector.
Derby worked as the director general of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority before coming to Curaçao. Under his leadership, the Authority has had to deal with two major international incidents. The first was the attempted hijacking of a Canadian airliner by a Jamaican in Montego Bay, St James, in February 2009 followed by an accident involving an American Airlines flight in Kingston in December of the same year.
He was also crucial in returning the Jamaican aviation sector to category 1. According to his curriculum he has been in the aviation sector for over 35 years, which means that he is supposed to have the experience and skills to move things faster in the Curaçao aviation sector.
It is time for Minister Balborda to at least give information about what the status is of the legislations needed to assist the returning of the aviation sector to category 1. The Minister should also give a report on Oscar Derby’s work. Transparency and accountability are essential in a democracy.