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Sierra Leone Minister of Transport and Aviation addresses 38th General Assembly

Sierra Leone Minister of Transport and Aviation addresses 38th General Assembly

of International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal, Canada – Mr. Leonard Balogun Koroma

Mr. President, the President of ICAO, Colleague  Ministers, Director Generals of States Civil Aviation Authorities and other State representatives, Regional Directors of ICAO, Representatives of AFCAC, WACAF, Banjul Accord Group and other Continental and Regional Aviation Organisations, the President of IATA, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you greetings and good wishes from his Excellency, the President Dr. Ernest  Bai  Koroma, members of his Government and the people of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Let me congratulate you for your appointment as President of the 38th session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (I.C.A. O.)Assembly and all other elected officials.

Distinguished delegates, Sierra Leone is a virgin land pregnant with possibilities and has been classified as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa by world financial institutions. This enviable growth forecast has made a positive impact on the Country’s aviation sector. Improvements in the Regulatory system and airport facilities have attracted a number of reputable airlines to the Freetown International Airport as well as new investors into the country.

To this end, the Government is determined to continue its support for the advancement of aviation in Sierra Leone and to maintain a continuous improvement culture in this dynamic sector.

Since the last Universal Safety Oversight Audit that was conducted by ICAO in 2006, the Government has taken a number of steps to address areas of non-compliance which were established by the audit exercise. In 2008, the Government established an autonomous body, the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority through an act of Parliament, with a mandate to regulate civil aviation and provide the necessary oversight and surveillance on civil aviation activities. This body commenced effective operation in 2010. Before then, the regulation of Civil Aviation was done by a department under the then Ministry of Transport and Communication, which proved to be inadequate.

Though the new institution is still faced with challenges in some areas, it has commenced   its mandate of regulating air transport with vigour, and with the support of sister member States.

In this regard, we wish to acknowledge the role of the Banjul Accord Group Safety Oversight Organisation (BAGASOO) and the support that we have received from ICAO, AFCAC, WACAF and sister States Civil Aviation Authorities ( CAAs) of Nigeria, Ghana, Singapore, Luxemburg under the ALSA program, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom CAA International. We count on your continuing support and those of other sister States who are welcome to Sierra Leone to assist us move the aviation sector to a higher level, and provide the catalyst for economic development and enhance our Agenda for Prosperity.

 Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, It also gives me pleasure to inform you that due to the importance that our Government attaches to Civil Aviation, the Government has entered into an agreement with EXIM bank of China for the provision of a concessionary loan for the construction of a new International Airport on the main land at Mamamah. The contract has been signed with China Railway International and construction is to commence by the end of this year.

We are pleased that ICAO is actively involved in providing technical advice and support towards this legacy project of ours from its inception. I now request ICAO to remain actively involved from the commissioning of the project by His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma by end of 2013, through the four year construction period, on to completion, and eventual operational certification by ICAO. We are doing this as part of our corrective measures to overcome past mistakes and plan to capitalize on the opportunities that are emerging from the Government’s Agenda for Prosperity.

In addition to the new airport construction project, extensive developments have taken place, and continue to take place at the existing Freetown International Airport, Lungi which will remain as a second airport, an industrial city as well as an ECOWAS support base.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I will like to now direct my address to the all-important area of Aviation Security, and by extension, Aviation Safety. Just about two months ago, Sierra Leone joined other States that have gone through the ICAO Universal Security Audit cycles 1 and 2.

This was made possible through the collaborative efforts of our Government and ICAO in the implementation of an assistance program between 2010 and 2012. I wish to express our gratitude to all ICAO facilitators who travelled to Sierra Leone to conduct training sessions, seminars,  workshops and inspections, for their dedication to the cause of raising our status to that of an aviation security compliant state. In pursuit of enhancing aviation security, we contracted the services of an international aviation security company based in the United Kingdom (Westminster Aviation Security Services) to manage aviation security functions at the Freetown International Airport, Lungi. This resulted in the introduction of very high standards of surveillance, screening, scanning, and profiling systems and procedures that have earned our airport the accolade of being one of the most secured in the sub region.

During my stay in Montreal, I have signed the first Bilateral Air Services Agreement with the State of Singapore. This has added to the many existing air services agreements that Sierra Leone has entered into or signed with other Countries worldwide. I look forward to signing similar agreements with other Countries in the near future especially Canada – our fantastic host.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to assure you that our Government will continue to give support to the state agency responsible for the regulation of civil aviation – the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that it carries out its regulatory, oversight and surveillance functions effectively and efficiently and to develop a culture of continued compliance to ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs).

We also want to guarantee Sierra Leone’s continued cooperation and support to ICAO, its agencies and programs especially the ICAN and other areas of Economic Regulation as it strives to ensure global aviation safety and security in all areas, including the introduction of a new annex in aviation safety, advancement in Air Navigation systems such as the Performance Based Navigation (PBN), consumer and Global Environmental protection initiatives.

Distinguished delegates, following the conclusions and recommendations of the 6th world wide air transport conference (ATConf 6) held in March 2013 in Montreal, it has been established that this 38th General Assembly of I.C.A.O. is cementing those recommendations for action by States and setting the stage for the sustainability of World Aviation for years to come and generating the economic conditions that are needed for this vital industry to grow. The Aviation World in its growth must grow along with Africa; the new economic frontier.  We must grow together through genuine partnerships in providing technical support, joint ventures and other investment opportunities, particularly supporting regional ventures such as the Air Mano concept that has been formulated by the Mano River Union states comprising Guinea Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  This concept is intended to establish a sub-regional airline that will operate the integrated traffic rights of the three States.  Reputable airlines, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft financiers and other investors are invited for a mutually beneficial partnership. Contacts can be made through the Ministry of Transport, Civil Aviation Authorities of any of the three States or the Mano River Union Secretariat based in Freetown. You are invited to come to Sierra Leone and be part of our Agenda for Prosperity

I will be remiss in my duty if I fail to put on record our deepest gratitude to outgoing President of ICAO Mr. Gonzales for his commitment to the State of Sierra Leone since his visit in 2008 and to assure him that we are on track to achieving world average compliance in safety and security within the next six months.

On behalf of my delegation and myself, let me express our sincere appreciation to the Government, Mayor of Montreal and the people of Canada for their warm hospitality.

I thank you and wish you successful deliberations for the betterment of Civil Aviation.

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