The PASO Council meeting was attended virtually on Wednesday, 30 September 2020 by eight of the 10 signatories to the Pacific Islands Civil Aviation Safety and Security Treaty (PICASST) and three Associate Member States.The PASO Council of Directors, comprising mostly of State Senior Transport and Aviation officials from the Member States of the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu together with representatives from Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand resolved to pursue innovative ways forward for aviation safety and security in the Pacific. Tuvalu provided an apology.
To strategically progress the strengthening and collaboration of regional aviation, COVID-19 response and recovery, the PASO Council recommended holding a virtual Regional Aviation Ministers’ Meeting (RAMM) in 2021, possibly in April.
“The RAMM presents a unique opportunity to progress regional collaboration and solutions for Pacific regional aviation safety and security and recovery. We are stronger when we work together and support each other,” said PASO Chairperson, Mr. Magele Hoe J. Viali.
“This Ministerial meeting also provides an opportune time to reset the strategic landscape in our Blue Pacific region for air connectivity and economic recovery. The last Ministers’ Meeting was held in 2016 and much has changed, especially with the economic and social disruption of COVID-19,” said Mr. Viali.
PASO will work cooperatively with the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS), other CROP Agencies, non-PASO Members including the Northern Pacific States and French territories, and international aviation partners including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to progress arrangements for the RAMM.
The PASO Council discussed the continued negative impacts of COVID-19 on PASO operations, which has resulted in challenges to PASO’s regional aviation oversight service delivery, where on-site audit and certification activity has been prevented because of travel restrictions. The decrease in aviation activity has resulted in a significant reduction in Member demand for PASO services.
“PASO’s current operational focus is on delivering practical solutions to meet our Member’s current oversight service needs and being prepared for the expected surges in future demand when regional aviation activities resume as COVID-19 related disruption and travel restrictions ease,” said PASO’s General Manager, Mr. Andrew Valentine.
“The PASO Council supported our current safety oversight model, which is now is being fine-tuned to enable off-site certification audits by our Members via their civil aviation authorities with off-site support delivered remotely from PASO,” said Mr. Valentine.
The PASO Council also supported ongoing development of an integrated and harmonized system to achieve a comprehensive aviation safety system for the Pacific region. Under the Programme, PASO’s Member States will eventually be able to access common technical resources managed by PASO to demonstrate their compliance with ICAO’s Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs), which underpin global aviation safety oversight.
The Council were advised that Members would be invited to engage in the programme. A State engagement group will be established to provide input into the development of the resources, and support and champion the implementation of the resources within States.
“This approach is innovative and provides a pathway for a Pacific-wide harmonisation of the core regulatory and organisational systems supporting aviation safety,” said PASO Chairperson, Mr. Viali.
“For this strategic program to succeed, and for us all to take full value from this opportunity, our Members will need to work in close collaboration with PASO. It ultimately provides the foundation to develop PASO as a central provider of a wider range of regulatory services.”
The PASO Council also endorsed PASO’s COVID-19 business continuity planning and discussed financial modelling and annual business planning. The Council agreed to start a review of progress against the current Strategic Plan (2018-2022) and also commence planning for PASO’s next Strategic Plan.
“PASO will continue to connect closely with our Members to understand their operational challenges, provide technical support, and advocate on their behalf to our strategic partners,” concluded PASO’s General Manager Mr. Valentine.
The PASO Council of Directors will next meet virtually on 2 December 2020 for an ordinary Council meeting.