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Lower House approves urgent amendments to Civil Aviation legislation

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell - “it’s is important for us to get back our category one rating”

The Lower House of Parliament has approved an amendment to the Civil Aviation Act of 2004 to transfer the power to make regulations relating to specified matters from the Minister for Civil Aviation to the Director General of the East Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA).

This comes against the backdrop of moves being made by the 6-month-old Dickon Mitchell Congress administration in St. George’s to implement its obligations to enact legislation to facilitate the functions of the ECCAA Agreement, as participating countries move to rectify the issue regarding the May 2020 demotion from Category One to Category Two status by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States.

ECCAA is the established vehicle for facilitating a collective agreement and uniformed approach to civil aviation matters affecting the Windward and Leeward islands and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Grouping.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell acknowledged the need for “harmonised safety, and security protocols throughout the East Caribbean Civil Aviation states” noting that “we are all, to a large extent, tourism-dependent territories (with) significant large numbers of citizens in the diaspora.”

“So, it is important for us to get back our category one rating…we do not want to appear as a soft underbelly for persons who may sometimes…wish to target the OECS,” the Grenadian leader said, adding that “aircraft security and safety is critical.”

Tourism Minister and Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South-west, Lennox Andrews echoed the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister and pointed out that “tourism is a major industry contributing substantially to our GDP and foreign exchange earnings.”

Minister Andrews who disclosed that the “OECS Ministers of Tourism are going to meet very early in the new year” emphasised that “as a region, we have to take all necessary steps to ensure that that industry is properly run and managed.”

Grenada is the second of nine (9) ECCAA participating states to make the necessary amendments to the Civil Aviation Act, following in the footsteps of St. Kitts and Nevis, which enacted the amendments in October.

Among the proposed civil aviation measures are specific penalties for contravention of an indictable offense outlined in new subsections inserted into section 40 of the principal act, providing for a maximum penalty of a $50,000.00 fine, five (5) years imprisonment, or both, in the case of an individual, and $150,000.00, in the case of a corporation.

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Subtitled “Prohibitions, offenses and punishment” Section 40 criminalises among other things, the willful destruction of documents required under the act, the entering of false information with the intent to mislead, the willful omission of relevant information, and except authorised under the Act, the willful operation or otherwise dealing with an aircraft detained under the Act.

A person is also prohibited from operating an aircraft in a negligent or reckless manner as to endanger, or to be likely to endanger the safety of persons, property, the safety of an aircraft by interference with its navigation equipment, safety equipment, or Aerodrome safety services facilities, and operate as a crew member of an aircraft, while under the influence of alcohol, or a prohibited substance to such an extent, to impair his ability to carry out his or her assigned duties.

With the airport now being upgraded, the Leader of Government emphasised the importance “that we make these amendments now to meet with the relevant standards to facilitate flights coming into Grenada and to ensure that we are not blacklisted…”

The Civil Aviation Amendment Bill forms part of a suite of amended legislations including the protocol to amend the East Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority Agreement substantially called ‘the protocol,’ and the East Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority Agreement Amendment of scheduled order of 2022.”

Minister Telesford informed the Lower House that these recommendations follow numerous meetings and engagements by the OECS on ECCAA, which has “reviewed the regulatory framework and requested a specified revision of the agreements in each of the nine participating states” and has made recommendations geared to “ensure that the enactment of harmonise and synchronise regulations that ensure safety and security in respect of civil aviation in each of the participating states.”

He said that “the most critical feature of this bill” is the transfer of power to the ECCAA Director General to make regulations relating to specified matters.

Minister Telesford stressed that this “transfer of power from the Minister to the Director General is also accompanied by a parliamentary control mechanism,” noting that all regulations made must be laid before the House of Representatives, which has the power to annul the regulations.

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