The Bahamas is being urged to join its regional counterparts in signing the CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement (MASA) in order to benefit from a “harmonization of the rules” which expands the scope for airlines owned by CARICOM (Caribbean Community) nationals to provide air services throughout the community.
MASA was approved and opened for signature in February 2018 when Belize, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname signed. Just last week, Jamaica and Trinidad also signed the agreement at the 30th Inter-Sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in St. Kitts & Nevis.
“There’s a regional aviation oversight that CARICOM has now taken on that the member states are a part of, that’s being supported by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the U.S. This is going to cause a harmonization of the aviation rules,” Chief Executive Officer of SkyBahamas Captain Randy Butler said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“It’s a great benefit because we can have that intra-Caribbean travel if you want to connect. I have a friend who is going to Antigua, he has to go to the U.S., then Puerto Rico and then Antigua. There’s a lot of opportunity and The Bahamas continues to have what I call CARICOM observer status because it doesn’t sign on to these things, therefore we don’t have the benefits.”
MASA addresses essential services, subsidies and the conditions for a single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop, intra-community flights.
The agreement concerns the operation of only CARICOM air carriers, allows all types of air services to be performed by those carriers designated by contracting states and allows for no restriction on routes, capacity or traffic rights and should facilitate increased intra-regional travel and provide more cargo options for exporters and importers, with resulting cost savings.
“The world is moving; once we join this WTO (World Trade Organization) a lot of these things will automatically come. But why not do this in a controlled fashion now, when it’s beneficial and we can use it,” Butler said.
“The big thing is harmonization of the rules. You join on when there is harmonization of the rules which means if we’re going to have a helicopter industry or something new come on that we are not familiar with, we can go to a member state and it can provide us with the resources that won’t make it so expensive. Same thing as if we have something that they need, we can benefit because monies are coming in from other states to support it.”