Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar tabled a package of bills on Wednesday that are expected to modernize the aviation sector and establish an air navigation authority.
The three bills, which were also tabled in the Senate yesterday, are the Bahamas Air Navigation Services Authority Bill, 2021; the Civil Aviation Bill, 2021 and the Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas Bill, 2021.
The legislation comes as the government seeks to put in place a framework to collect overflight fees early this year and establish an aircraft registry.
The updated Civil Aviation Bill seeks to address the division of responsibilities between the Civil Aviation Authority and the ministry, as well as ensure that civil aviation in The Bahamas is administered in accordance with the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation – which established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations charged with coordinating international air travel – by establishing and implementing operating regulations and conducting safety and security oversight activities.
The ICAO audits the aviation safety and aviation security oversight capacities of its 193 member states. According to D’Aguilar, during its last audit in 2017, the ICAO gave The Bahamas an “abysmal”, 32 out of 100. The next audit is scheduled for this spring.
As a result, the government last year hired Aircraft Registry Group (ARG), a provider of aviation advisory services, to revamp The Bahamas’ aviation legislation.
The Civil Aviation Bill also addresses specific deficiencies in the aviation sector, on which the country scored low during its last assessment.
For example, The Bahamas scored 35 percent for meeting licensing standards. The new bill would require foreign and domestic air operators to be in possession of an air transport license, unless the aircraft lands or flies across The Bahamas without embarking or disembarking passengers, cargo or mail.
The Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas Bill gives effect to an ICAO protocol – Article 83 bis – which provides for the transfer of certain functions and duties from the jurisdiction where an aircraft is registered to the jurisdiction where the aircraft operates.
It also would require the Civil Aviation Authority to maintain a digital database and provide for an exhaustive list of state aviation programs.
The Bahamas Air Navigation Services Authority Bill would establish an authority as a body corporate governed by a board. The authority would have the power to transfer the performance of certain functions of the authority outside of The Bahamas.
Any additional funds collected by the authority from fees, taxes or levies would be paid into the consolidated fund, according to the legislation.