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European Commission unhappy over delay in creating law to split Caan

- Post Report, Kathmandu

The European Commission (EC) has indicated that it is not happy with the Nepal government for lack of progress on making a law to split the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) as envisaged, raising doubts that Nepali airlines will be removed from its air safety list any time soon, sources said.


Caan is in line to be broken up into two entities—regulator and service provider—to facilitate stringent enforcement of safety measures.


The aviation regulator had submitted all documents to satisfy the concerns of the EC with evidence regarding the improvements Nepal has made to address air safety deficiencies during the technical committee meeting held in Brussels, Belgium last January.


Subsequently, the EC agreed to send a technical team to Nepal to assess the status of Nepali airlines in September. The group is expected to prepare a field report and table it at its technical committee meeting in November to decide whether Nepal should be removed from its air safety list. But officials are concerned the technical team might not come because of lack of progress on the law to fragment Caan.


“As of September 6, we have not received any word from the EC on their Nepal visit plan,” said a high-level source at Caan. “The EC is not happy with the Nepal government as it has made no progress in enacting a law to break Caan into two entities.”


In December 2013, the EC issued a ban against Nepali airlines preventing them from expanding to EU cities after finding regulatory oversight to be inadequate. The airline industry fears that continuation of the ban will hurt Nepal’s airlines, as they plan to extend their network to Europe. In July 2017, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) removed the significant safety concerns (SSC) tag it had put on Nepal four years ago. However, Nepal is still under the purview of the EC.


Currently, Caan is functioning both as regulator and service provider from the same office, and there is no clear demarcation between its duties and organisational structure. In June, while receiving the Council President Certificate from Icao headquarters in Montreal, Civil Aviation Minister Rabindra Adhikari had promised to complete the process of enacting the draft Integrated Civil Aviation Bill to split Caan within a year.


“We don’t see any progress from the ministry over the law,” said the source. But one high-level official at the ministry said that the bill was expected to be submitted to the Cabinet by October for its approval.


After the draft is approved by the Cabinet, the bill will be presented in Parliament. Discussions will be held on each clause in the bill at various parliamentary committees, and amendments may be made at this stage.
The bill will be put to the vote after getting clearance from the parliamentary committees.


Once the bill is signed into law, it will supersede two existing laws—the Civil Aviation Act 1959 and Nepal Civil Aviation Authority Act 1996. As per the draft bill, Caan will continue to act as regulator while a separate Airport and Air Navigation Services will be set up to operate as service provider.


The service provider will be a public limited company and be led by a CEO. Its key responsibilities will include airport management, terminal management, ground handling, airport security, rescue and fire fighting, airport infrastructure development, airport fee and tax collection and air traffic control.


Likewise, the regulator will be responsible for licensing and regulating aviation professionals and pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers, airlines and aerodromes. The government has been working on the new law for the last nine years.


Icao’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme has recommended that Caan be split to make the aviation sector more efficient. Breaking up Caan, which is also among the components of the $4.2 million Air Transport Enhancement Project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is aimed at facilitating stringent enforcement of safety measures.

Published: 2018-09-07 09:17:45