9 Dec 2013

Vanuatu MP calls for audit of aviation sector

6:26 pm on 9 December 2013

A Vanuatu Member of Parliament is calling for an audit of the country's aviation sector.

The MP for the island of Epi, Robert Bohn has raised concerns regarding the Civil Aviation Authority, Airports Vanuatu which owns the country's airports, and the domestic arm of Air Vanuatu.

Mr Bohn, who is a naturalised citizen, told Beverley Tse in the first instance, the director of the Civil Aviation Authority is incompetent for the role.

ROBERT BOHN: The bottom line is I've done a lot of research with various operators in Vanuatu, including the PASO, which is the Pacific Aviation Safety Organisation, and it's just my belief that the young man, although a nice enough young person, just doesn't have the background, the experience or the formal education that one would hope to have in that position.

BEVERLEY TSE: So what's the solution? What do you think needs to be done?

RB: The solution for that is that he has to be replaced immediately, and if the government chooses to keep him in the line function then they have to send him to school before five years away somewhere in what we like to say the 'real world' to get both the formal education and the experience required to actually manage that authority.

BT: And what are your concerns in regards to the two other organisations?

RB: Airports Vanuatu is a wholly owned government organisation that has responsibility to run the airports in Vanuatu. And of course the two main airports that we're talking about are in Port Vila and in Santo. And it is my belief, and I could be wrong, but it is my belief from all my research to believe they're operating at well below the category for which they're mandated to operate.

BT: And what's the evidence of that?

RB: Well, particularly at Peko in Santo there is a whole range of issues that actually brought the airport to a standstill about a year ago. And the persons that went in to look at the various operations found numerous areas where they were not operating at capacity.

BT: And, lastly, what were your other concerns?

RB: The other concern was Air Vanuatu - their domestic sector. In that regard I have been able to sit down and speak with the administration, Mr Joseph Laloyer, and also members of the board - I'm reasonably confident that they are up to speed, certainly I'm happy that they spoke to me - but also laid out their six-month plan for improving the areas of operations.

BT: Now, you've been described by local media as saying that the aviation sector is operating dangerously below international standards. In what way?

RB: Airports themselves run at a category, depending on what kind of airplanes they have, what type of operations. It's my belief, and I could be wrong, but my access to information suggests that they're operating at least two categories below or possibly, in the case of Peko, three categories below. What I'm calling for is someone with the proper authority to come in and do an audit, both an operational audit of the regulatory authority and an operations audit of the airport.

Robert Bohn says personnel from the Vanuatu Pacific Aviation Safety Authority or New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority could carry out the audit. The Director of the Vanuatu Civil Aviation Authority Joseph Niel has declined an interview but says Mr Bohn's concerns are based on hearsay and lies.