New legislation that came into force in March 2021 (for further details, please see "Dawning of a new age: proposed legislation shapes future of aviation") has afforded the Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas (CAAB) the much-needed power to advance new projects and improvements in the country's civil aviation sector. The director general now has unfettered power to implement changes by policy or special regulations, obviating the need to address Parliament.
This article provides an outline of key developments in The Bahamas' aviation sector in 2021.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit is scheduled to commence on 5 November 2021. The previously scheduled audit was delayed due to the covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of new legislation; the CAAB is working diligently to prepare. The goal, although not without its challenges, is to achieve a much-improved score and the authority is optimistic in this regard.
The Bahamas Air Navigation Services Authority (BANSA), an independent agency governed by its own legislation, received its first payment for overflight fees (for further details, please see "Gaining management of sovereign airspace") in August 2021 and continues to review and develop other air navigation initiatives. The fees collected are not earmarked for the government's consolidated fund but are to be managed by the CAAB and used strictly for the benefit of the civil aviation sector to better streamline its services (eg, equipment upgrades, training and human resources).
In December 2020, the US Coast Guard – in conjunction with the departments of state and transportation (including the Federal Aviation Administration) – finalised an aeronautical and maritime search and rescue (SAR) agreement with the government of The Bahamas. The SAR agreement further strengthened the governments' commitment to improved coordination of SAR operations off the south-east coast of Florida, the Florida Straits and The Bahamas. Additionally, the SAR division is continuing its development of an SAR centre in cooperation with the CAAB.
The CAAB has made great progress in 2021 and continues to do so as new policies and procedures take effect to comply with the new legislation and ICAO recommendations and practices. One of the greatest achievements thus far is BANSA's collection of overflight fees, which are expected to increase over the next few years. The government has recently announced a public private partnership initiative for select airports throughout the islands and it is anticipated that the Ministry of Aviation will issue requests for proposals imminently. There is no doubt that the continued success of the CAAB will hinge on the outcome of the upcoming audit.
Llewellyn V Boyer-Cartwright