Govt in airspace talks with U.S.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: May 22, 2013
The government held preliminary discussions with officials from the United States last week in a bid to finally gain control of the Bahamian airspace, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin said yesterday.
Hanna-Martin said she along with other government officials had talks with U.S. officials in Washington, D.C.
She said negotiations regarding the control of Bahamian airspace are now expected to begin in earnest.
The Christie government has held previous talks.
In 2002, the previous Christie administration put in a formal application to have The Bahamas control its airspace.
In 2003, Prime Minister Perry Christie said in the House of Assembly that when The Bahamas takes over its airspace the Public Treasury would collect up to $50 million annually.
But that never happened.
"The process was stalled but we're catching up now," said Hanna-Martin on the sidelines of the Port Security Seminar at the Port Department.
"The main thing now would be engaging in dialogue with the United States of America because they're the ones who control the airspace and have done so for 50 years.
"So that’s the next thing now, engaging in dialogue which I am anticipating and hoping will not be for an extended period of time because we know the issues and we should be able to fine tune them and have a very efficient dialogue that could lead to very positive results for the Bahamian people.”
Despite the air navigation charges imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The Bahamas receives no funds from the thousands of aircraft which transit its airspace.
Hanna-Martin said the money that the FAA collects for the use of Bahamian airspace is used on the United States’ aviation sector.
Hanna-Martin said ultimately The Bahamas would wish to build capacity to manage its airspace. However, she noted that it would require additional technology and manpower, among other things.
She said in the short term, the goal is to build relations between the two countries as it relates to airspace.
Asked how long she expects the negotiations to take, Hanna-Martin said it should not be an "extended process".
She said the government will work assiduously to ensure that the process happens in the shortest possible time.
In 2010, then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said The Bahamas will never be able to fully control its airspace and therefore reap the massive revenues that could reportedly be derived.
Ingraham said ceding the airspace responsibility to the government of The Bahamas will require more financing and resources than The Bahamas can spare.
“There was never, ever, ever any realistic proposition of being able to collect any such thing ($50 million) from the air traffic surveillance system,” he said. “The reality is it’s not going to happen.”