Statement By The Delegation of Sierra Leone To The 39th Assembly Of The international Civil Aviation Organisation ( ICAO ) delivered by Honourable Leonard Balogun Koroma, Minster of Transport and Aviation.
Mr President of The assembly, President and Secretary General of Council, Fellow Ministers of States, distinguished Delegates and observers, please allow me to greet you on behalf of my President His. Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the Government, and People of The Republic of Sierra Leone.
Our delegation has been impressed with the excellent and professional planning of the Assembly by the Secretariat and the efficient execution of the Agenda by the Presidium to date.
We are also grateful for the warm hospitality of our hosts the Government and People of Canada which is a fitting compensation for the chilly Canadian weather experienced since our arrival.
Mr President and Fellow delegates, the past three years since the last Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization has experienced a mix of successes with expanded operations of many carriers and development of new airports, strengthening Regional Safety Oversight Organisations and Regional Aviation Safety Groups and progression of the No Country Left Behind initiative on the one hand and difficulties with mostly acts of unlawful interference into Civil Aviation and few technical failures on the other. Nevertheless, we should congratulate ourselves for the impressive record of achievements attained in Aviation Safety, Security and Facilitation, Environmental Protection and Air transport.
For us in the Mano River Union Region, our contributions to the above mentioned achievements were stalled by the Ebola Virus pandemic which arrived unannounced and shocked us in a way that also reverberated beyond our borders and forced Airports around the world to adopt new and inventive approaches to facilitation for Aircraft arriving with passengers from Ebola Affected States. Freetowns Lungi International Airport was singled out for putting in place one of the most successful of such measures.
For others, the loss of lives through apparent acts of sabotage or unlawful interference became a nightmare never before encountered in the commercial aviation domain. Our hearts go out to the families of all the lost souls that were victims of those accidents.
Mr President, fellow delegates, when we addressed this August Assembly three years ago, we were filled with optimism that the path our State had plotted to achieve a significant improvement on our Level of Effective Implementation was the right one. However when an ICAO Co-ordination Validation Mission was conducted in February/ March of 2014 we were made to realise that our best efforts had not been good enough to satisfy the thirst for excellence of ICAO. And to add insult to injury, our corrective action plan to mitigate the findings had hardly rolled out when The Ebola Epidemic struck our state and sub region.
As usual, unannounced crisis usually brings out the best and the worst in humans and this was epitomised during the period of the Ebola Epidemic when our State economy collapsed as every sector of the economy was affected. Although Ebola is no more our states economy is struggling with reduction of mining activities and fall in commodity prices . Needless to say aviation activities also slowed down and airport revenues for landing, handling etc dropped considerably. Governments Plan for the construction of a new airport on the mainland was also put on hold but has now been reactivated. So also was the plan for the establishment of a sub regional carrier Air Mano to be owned by the States of the Mano River Union viz Guinea, Ivory Coast , Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Aviation being a catalyst was very instrumental in providing the much needed service of moving people and goods at speed and contributed a lot in the nations ebola recovery program. In recognising this role, coupled with lessons learned from the ebola and the state of our economies, we have realised that we cannot depend on foreign carriers for the development of our tourism industry, agriculture and commerce. The MRU Countries have therefore concluded a study for this sub regional Airline venture. As a small group, we believe that we can economically operate this airline together rather than as individual States. We are therefore looking for partners and investors to join us in attaining the realization of this viable commercial project.
On another hand, the Civil Aviation Authority continued to pursue its new mandate with vigour and has been enjoying the full support of the Government. For example the ratification of certain conventions and protocols as required by the ICVM report have been done and the review of the primary legislation to conform to the recommendations of the ICVM report will soon be piloted through our Parliament for adoption.
In the area of Technical Cooperation, the CAA has developed strong ties with the ICAO Regional office based in Dakar and such collaboration was tested to the full for the resolution of the Significant Safety Concern (SSC) in Personnel Licensing (PEL) during the ebola crisis when Skype conferencing was used to address pressing issues as travel was curtailed for personnel of the two entities. Strong collaboration has also been established with sister older CAAs in the Region especially Ghana and Nigeria.
Farther afield The State of Singapore has been of tremendous support and South Africa has indicated a willing ness to assist our CAA develop to its full potential. The European Aviation Safety Agency ( EASA) has also come to our rescue by providing us with an expert to resolve our basic Flight Operations deficiencies.
Sustaining the developments that we have achieved is a key component to the overall development of the aviation industry and its contributions to the economy of Sierra Leone. It is in this vein that we continue to strengthen our relationship with BAG, BAGASOO, BAGAIA and of course the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC).
Sierra Leone would also like to request other organizations outside our region to follow the footsteps of EASA in assisting us especially with technical expertise in our drive to meet Abuja Safety Targets required of our State by 2017.
In consideration of the greater emphasis and importance that have been attached to the Environment, Sierra Leone is among States that have focused on the issue of climate change. Government has in this direction established a special agency – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is dealing with this subject. The State action plan has not yet completed. Some progress has been made and we are looking for assistance from sister States and other organisations under the ICAO BUDDY initiative.
Mr president and fellow delegates, States of the Mano River Union sub region have been beneficiaries of the No Country Left Behind initiative through capacity building and technical support programs supported by ICAO. A most recent manifestation was the African Flight Procedures Program introductory meeting sponsored by Airbus and the Albert Taylor Award to the MRU states which culminated in the training of OJT instructors in Air Traffic Control and boosted our capacity in that area both of which were successfully held in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The effort was also a text book example of regional cooperation in progress as the training was hosted by Sierra Leone for the benefit of the three states and conducted by Air Traffic Navigational Services (ATNS) of South Africa.
Therefore, please allow me to use this opportunity to pay special tribute to President of Council Dr Barnard Allieu a distinguished son from our region , the Secretary General Dr. Lui, the Regional Director for WACAF Mr. Mam Sait Jallow and of course the Secretary General of AFCAC Madam Iyabo Soshina. We also want to recall memories of the support that we received from the past Secretary General Mr. Raymond Benjamin and President Gonzales.
Finally, our delegation would like to congratulate the States that