The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has warned that delays to address aviation safety issues could put the country’s airports at risk of being blacklisted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao).
DCA director Alfred Mtilatila yesterday said the delays are contrary to Chicago Convention, an international civil aviation convention, which entered into force on April 4 1944 and was ratified by 191 countries worldwide, including Malawi.
Malawi ratified the convention on September 11 1964, according to Mtilatila.
Mtilatila was yesterday reacting to a statement by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, who warned in Lilongwe last Friday that Malawi airports risk being blacklisted due to poor safety aviation standards.
He was speaking during a signing of a financing agreement for the Lilongwe Water Efficiency Project by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Malawi Government worth K12 billion in context of opposition members of Parliament (MPs) rejecting a Loan Authorisation Bill last Wednesday.
The bill was meant to allow government to borrow $20 million (about K9 billion) from the EIB to upgrade aviation safety and security equipment at Kamuzu and Chileka airports, but opposition MPs shot down the bill, saying it lacked critical and sufficient information.
Said Mtilatila: “Under this [Chicago] convention, each and every year international experts conduct an audit to verify whether Malawi as a county is complying with required standards, but even you laymen are able to notice that our safety and security equipment is in bad shape.”
“When you travel from our airport to, for example, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa, when you see their airports, you notice that our standards at our airports are way below.”
Mtilatila warned that the delays to improve safety standards at the country’s main airports have huge implications to the country as a whole.
“What the project intends to do [with the help of EIB borrowed resources] is to bring in equipment at our airports that is in tandem with latest technology. In our case, we have reached a point where we cannot maintain the equipment because it is obsolete. Thirty years down the line, it is pathetic that we are still using the same equipment,” he said.
Mtilatila cited electrical voltage system at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) which he said has outlived its lifespan “and assuming it explodes today, then we will definitely be left with no choice but to close the airport instantly.”
But EIB vice-president Pim Van Ballekom said they appreciate the role parliamentarians play in scrutinising the bill and hoped that it will be passed soon.
“We still stand ready to help address aviation safety issues at Blantyre and Lilongwe airports that are crucial for improving the lives of Malawians and increasing economic opportunities in this country, if and when this is approved by Parliament,” he said.