PORT VILA, Vanuatu: Strengthening regional civil aviation safety and security outcomes for Pacific Islands was discussed at the biannual Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) Council of Directors meeting in Port Vila in December 2019.
Over 60 Pacific region and international delegates, including Council Members representing the 10 Pacific Island signatories to the Pacific Islands Civil Aviation Safety and Security Treaty (PICASST), were in attendance at the PASO Council Meeting from 9 to 12 December 2019.
The Council was joined by Pacific government civil aviation authorities’ representatives from Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The governments of Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the World Bank, and Asian Development Bank (ADB), together with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Airways New Zealand, Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA), Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, the United States of America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and PASO’s civil aviation inspectors attended.
“This is the largest delegation to a PASO Council meeting and is a strong indicator of the increased trust and confidence that PASO is heading in the right direction,” said Mr. Wilson Sagati, PASO Chairman.
The PASO Council meeting is the first steps taken following the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Tuvalu in August this year, where Leaders endorsed the convening of a Regional Aviation Ministers Meeting (RAMM) scheduled for March 2020 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
This week the PASO Council reviewed initial papers for the RAMM and took the opportunity to have a broad and open discussion aimed at strengthening aviation in the Pacific. The Council also committed to ensuring all Pacific Islands Forum Members are included.
“Significantly, the RAMM provides an excellent opportunity for all Pacific nations to collaborate and coordinate for the benefit of our region,” said Mr. Sagati.
The PASO Council also considered how the RAMM can be positioned to include important ICAO global initiatives, such as the Global Aviation Safety Plan, as well as the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ vision of Pacific Regionalism.
The Council meeting also recognized the recent success stories of PASO, especially the repayment of 25% of the Asia Development Bank (ADB) loan.
“I am pleased to confirm that PASO has paid off AUD$400K of its long standing debt to the ADB. This is a testament to PASO’s increased operational demand and prudent financial management,” said Mr. Sagati.
PASO’s Deputy Chairman, Mr. Magele Hoe J. Viali, handed over a symbolic cheque on behalf of PASO’s Council to Senior ADB Country Coordinator, Ms. Nancy Wells. Witnessing the moment were representatives from the four PASO Guarantor States of the ADB Loan – Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
The loan was granted to PASO in 2007, after 10 Pacific Governments signed the PICASST establishing PASO as a regional body headquartered in Port Vila.
Throughout the 4-day meeting, the PASO Council affirmed PASO’s strategic direction and priorities for 2020 and took the time to start thinking about the future direction of PASO.
This consideration was on the back off significant short term growth. “Since 2017, PASO has increased its services to Pacific member States by 50% through significant operational activities, and by providing quality advice and promoting capacity building for civil aviation staff,” said PASO General Manager, Mr. Andrew Valentine.
The PASO Council will next meet for a Special Council Meeting in February for the purposes of coordination for the RAMM.
PASO was created by the 10 Member States of the PICASST treaty, to provide specialized regulatory aviation safety oversight services to their respective National Civil Aviation Authorities.