29 Jan 2021
The introduction of three new bills will herald the dawning of a new age in aviation in The Bahamas and position the jurisdiction to attain the international recognition that it deserves. These bills – the Civil Aviation Bill 2020, the Civil Aviation Authority Bill 2020 and the Air Navigation Services Authority Bill 2020 – have been tabled before Cabinet and address the issues arising from, and remedy the defects found in, the 2017 International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit, the current Civil Aviation Act 2016 and the Civil Aviation (General) Regulations 2017. The new legislation will repeal and consolidate the existing legislation and will better prepare The Bahamas for its next ICAO audit scheduled for October 2021.
The Civil Aviation Bill 2020 aims to better set out the regulatory requirements for aviation and the aviation industry under the direction of the Civil Aviation Authority. It is intended to repeal and replace the current Civil Aviation Act 2016 and the Civil Aviation (General) Regulations 2017. Essentially, the new legislation will provide for the separation of powers with respect to enforcement of regulations and safety oversight. The act will give the director general(1) unfettered power to implement operating regulations when deemed necessary and which will allow for the timely implementation of amendments. Currently, any amendment or special regulation requires review by the Law Reform Committee of the Attorney General's Office and ultimately an act of Parliament, which causes much delay.
The Civil Aviation Authority Bill 2020 provides for a separation of powers (ie, administrative and regulatory functions). The 'new' Civil Aviation Authority will be autonomous and will give the director general wider powers; the aviation industry is by its very nature dynamic and demands quick, decisive and responsive action. The body corporate which was created under the current Civil Aviation Act 2016 will be preserved and will be governed by a board. Ultimately, the act is intended to clarify and expand the authority's functions and powers.
Under the Air Navigation Services Authority Bill 2020, the existing air navigation services will become a separate and semi-autonomous entity. The authority will be governed by its own board, with its constitution and functions as set out in the act. Currently, the oversight and regulation of the Bahamas Air Navigation Services Division is undertaken by the Civil Aviation Authority under the Civil Aviation Act 2016.
The new act will allow the authority to charge for the services and facilities which it provides and impose penalties for late payment of charges. The authority may determine the service charge or late payment penalty fee to be a fixed amount or one calculated based on a prescribed method which has yet to be decided.
In the event that any unpaid service charges or penalty fees are not paid by the due date. the director may enter this in a register that is available to the public. The entry in the register will constitute a statutory lien on the aircraft which then vests in the authority. The lien can be removed on:
The government – and particularly the minister responsible for aviation, Dionisio D'Aguilar – have expressed the need to prioritise the implementation of the three new bills in readiness for the upcoming ICAO audit, as well as for a post-COVID-19 recovery.
This bold move will create a firm foundation on which The Bahamas can establish a self-sustaining civil aviation sector and will greatly assist the authority with launching a successful aircraft registry that can compete on a global level.
To successfully enact and implement the new legislation, the government and the authority must communicate and consult with industry stakeholders and the public. As the industry prepares to emerge from the global pandemic, now is the time to act swiftly to prepare the country for the recovery phase.
Llewellyn V Boyer-Cartwright