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Broader skies for Caribbean airlines

Broader skies for Caribbean airlines

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It has happened!

After a period of 10 years the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has been recertified and given Category One Aviation Status by the United States Federal Aviation Authority (USFAA). And as a consequence, the prospect for the region’s carriers now looks bright. Hence, Friday, March 24, 2006 will go down in the annals of history as a day of monumental achievement for the Eastern Caribbean.

Last Friday morning, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Godfrey Pompey, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, and a contingent of local journalists traveled to Antigua and Barbuda, where US Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, Mary Kramer, presented the official letter of notification to Prime Minister Gonsalves in his role as Lead Spokesperson on Civil Aviation. {{more}}

Delivering the feature address at the Grand Royal Antiguan Beach Resort, Dr. Gonsalves, in a speech broadcast throughout the region, called on everyone to understand the economic importance of the achievement. The opportunities for the region’s airlines “certainly look

brighter than before,” he said. He drew reference to the far-reaching economic spin off which can be derived especially as the region prepares to host the Cricket World Cup in March 2007.

“As a region we can face the future with a greater degree of confidence in the area of air transport.

It now means that our OECS states can negotiate with the US for an open skies agreement, which is next on our agenda. It also means that we can expand flights into the US territories and it also means that we can cement new commercial agreements with US carriers by entering into strategic alliances with counterpart US carriers,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

In June 1996, the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) was downgraded from Category One to Category Two Status. It was the predecessor organization to the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA), the organization that is currently designated with the responsibility to provide effective safety oversight for air transport in the OECS.

Dr. Gonsalves told the large gathering of mainly representatives of the ECCAA that since the signing of the Treaty of Basseterre on June 18, 1981, which gave birth to the OECS, a number of milestones had been achieved but in his opinion none as significant as the OECS being assigned Category One Status again. He said the accomplishment is a fitting tribute to the OECS, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

And though the event deserves a celebration, Prime Minister Gonsalves reminded the region the road to get there was not always an easy one. Speaking of the hurdles, he said it required, among other things, a comprehensive review and rethinking of the OECS’ approach to civil aviation as it relates to safety and security and consequential coordinated actions.

Recalling one of the significant challenges along the journey, he made mention of the passage and enactment of harmonized legislation in each of the OECS states.

Praises were showered on LIAT for the role it played in making Category One Status possible for the OECS, as well as Gary Cullen, LIAT’s outgoing Chief Executive Officer, who will serve as a Director of LIAT upon his retirement.

“The commitment of regional carriers, especially LIAT to the process must be recorded. LIAT, was the first carrier to be recertified and it was on this achievement that the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority was able to forge ahead and commence negotiations with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) towards the attainment of category one status.

“I lost a bet on this one. Everyone knows that I am a LIAT man but I would never have believed LIAT would make it before Caribbean Star because Caribbean Sun is a US airline and they have gone through all of this as a US registered airline and one would have assumed since it is one ownership that it is an easy transference. I cannot yet understand how is it that LIAT beat Caribbean Star to the tape in respect of the Category One Status,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

Remarks were also delivered by Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Dr. Len Ishmael, Director General of the OECS, Vincent Hippolyte, Chairman of the ECCAA Board of Directors, Herald Wilson, St. Lucia Representative on the Council of ICAO, Rosemond James, Acting Director General of the ECCAA and Mary Kramer, the US Ambassador.

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