More outside expertise thought to be required if Kingdom is to achieve international standard
INTERNATIONAL expertise will be needed for Cambodian civil aviation to fully comply with international standards, a senior official said Wednesday following an audit last week by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Director of Policy Planning and Legislation Sinn Chanserey Vutha said he expected the three-day ICAO validation mission, which ended on Thursday, would show that Cambodia had addressed 80 percent of the concerns raised in a similar audit last year that ultimately led to the grounding of Siem Reap Airways.
“We have nearly completed everything we needed to do to address their concerns,” he said. “But we have not been able to fully address around 20 percent of their concerns, which will require international expertise.”
However, the official results of the audit would not be released to the SSCA until March next year, Sinn Chanserey Vutha said.
The United Nations-mandated organisation releases its findings to governments only and refuses to release the results publicly or to airlines.
However, a source within the SSCA told the Post earlier this year that the last audit found Cambodian civil aviation in breach of 107 international standards.
We have not been able to fully address around 20 percent of ... [the ICAO's] Concerns.
The finding led to the blacklisting of Siem Reap Airways – the only airline operating under the oversight of the SSCA at that time – by the European Commission (EC), which meant European tour operators were barred from booking customers on the airline.
Key market bans flights
Europe remains a key market for Cambodia’s tourism sector – the United Kingdom and France provided close to 200,000 visitors to the Kingdom last year, or more than 16 percent of total arrivals, according to Ministry of Tourism figures.
Siem Reap Airways ceased operations in November as a result of the European ban, and the SSCA removed its air operating certificate (AOC) in February.
SSCA Secretary of State Mao Havannal told the Post last month the European Commission was due to meet November 12 and 13 with regard to its list of air carriers subject to an operating ban.
He said at the time that he expected Siem Reap Airways to be removed from the blacklist at the meeting as a result of the ICAO audit.
Mao Havannal could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and the EC had not returned a request for comment on the meeting’s agenda.
We can't finalise an aircraft until we can show the owner that we have some prospect of being able to operate it.
However, Sinn Chanserey Vutha said he hoped the blacklisting could be over-turned even without the official ICAO report, as Siem Reap Airways had completed all the stages required to receive a domestic AOC except registering an aircraft in Cambodia and performing a test flight.
The AOC application process has been overhauled since the last ICAO audit and now complies with international standards, he added.
Siem Reap Airways General Manager Terry Alton said Wednesday he was still waiting for the SSCA to provide written confirmation of the airline's application status.
“We can’t finalise an aircraft until we can show the owner that we have some prospect of being able to operate it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sinn Chanserey Vutha said he hoped Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), which was launched July 27 as a US$100 million joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, would meet the requirements for an AOC by the end of the year.
Soy Sokhan, the SSCA undersecretary of state in charge of CAA, also said the airline would register an ATR72 aircraft in Cambodia in January and another one next March in order to comply with Cambodian aviation law.
Sinn Chanserey Vutha acknowledged that the airline was operating under the AOC of its joint-venture partner under the oversight of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam due to the haste with which the airline was launched this year.
A special licence from the government is required to circumvent domestic aviation laws that require an airline to have an AOC and have at least one locally registered aircraft to fly domestic routes.
“Because the government wanted to have our own national carrier, we were in a hurry to establish it,” he said. “However, the airline completely follows SSCA rules in everything.”