Bahamas now in control of its sovereign airspace

n Country could collect up to $350 million from overflight airlines over ten years

The government of The Bahamas yesterday signed an historic air navigation services agreement with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the monitoring of The Bahamas’ sovereign airspace for a period of ten years at no cost, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar announced yesterday at the agreement signing ceremony, adding that the country could collect up to $350 million from overflight airlines over that ten years.

D’Aguilar explained that while the FAA has been monitoring this country’s airspace for some time, there has never been a formal agreement in place. And while the FAA’s monitoring of the airspace will be done at no cost, his country will have to pay an annual $80,000 fee to acquire data on airlines passing through The Bahamas’ airspace.

That data will help the newly formed Bahamas Air Navigation Services Authority (BANSA) to collect overflight fees due to this country.

“Today, we conclude decades upon decades of talks between The Bahamas and the United States about the management of the sovereign airspace of The Bahamas,” D’Aguilar said.

“Today, The Bahamas will assume, for the very first time, the management of its sovereign airspace. Commencing May 1, 2021, aircraft landing in and departing out of the sovereign airspace of The Bahamas, aircraft flying solely within the sovereign airspace of The Bahamas and aircraft flying over the sovereign airspace of The Bahamas will start, for the very first time, to pay fees to an entity solely owned and operated by the government of The Bahamas.”

According to D’Aguilar, before the signing of this agreement, the US provided air navigation services for about 75 percent of The Bahamas’ sovereign airspace, while Cuba controlled the rest. Overflight fees were therefore paid directly to the FAA and the Cubans.

“The Bahamas received not one red cent from this arrangement,” said D’Aguilar.

He added that the money collected from the overflight fees will be used to build BANSA’s capacity, so that one day, The Bahamas may be able to manage its own airspace. Until then, the overflight fees charged by The Bahamas will move the country toward purchasing the equipment and training the staff necessary to achieve such independence.

“Based upon the fact that the provision of such air traffic control services attracts a fee in almost all jurisdictions of the world, on May 1, 2021, all airspace users that land and take off from Bahamian airports and fly within Bahamian airspace will now pay a fee of $1 per arriving and departing passenger, plus a flat fee of $10 up to $61 for each flight, depending on the maximum take off weight (MTOW) of the aircraft,” D’Aguilar said.

“The aircraft that weighs less will pay less and the aircraft that weighs more will pay more. Also, prior to May 1, 2021, all aircraft flying over The Bahamas, not landing or taking off in The Bahamas, but simply flying through our sovereign airspace, paid the FAA directly $61.75 per 100 nautical miles. After May 1, 2021, the airspace users will pay the government of The Bahamas from $8.50 to $51.60 per 100 nautical miles based upon the MTOW of the aircraft.

“Once again, the aircraft that weighs less and travels a shorter distance will pay less and the aircraft that weighs more and travels a longer distance will pay more.”

D’Aguilar made it clear that these fees collected can only be used to fund the management and operations of the civil aviation system in The Bahamas and will not be deposited into the consolidated fund, also noting that these costs were once solely borne by Bahamian taxpayers.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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