Published On: Tue, Oct 1st, 2019

Dutch get direct influence on international aviation matters via ICAO

Jets parked at SXM Airport - Photo by Daniel Jef

PHILIPSBURG – There has been nothing but silence from outgoing Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson about the standing of the Princess Juliana International Airport with the American Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), but a few days ago, during the general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized organization of the United Nations, the Netherlands obtained a seat on the ICAO-council for the next three years, thus giving the Kingdom direct influence on aviation matters.

Infrastructure Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen attended the 40th ICAO Assembly in Montreal last week to make the case for the Dutch candidacy on the council. A large majority voted in favor of the Dutch candidate.

The minister emphasized at the assembly the importance of good international cooperation, not only for safe civil aviation, but also for taking steps towards a more sustainable aviation industry.

“The Netherlands can now make sure that safety remains at the top of the agenda and that emphasis on sustainability increases,” the ministry said in a press statement.

ICAO makes international agreements and develops standards for a safe an orderly development of air traffic. The Netherlands is one of 193 countries that have joined ICAO. The Dutch representative on the ICAO-council represents the interests of the Netherlands as well as those of the Kingdom’s overseas territories that include St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba.

St. Maarten has a definite interest in the Dutch presence on the ICAO-council, because in April Princess Juliana International Airport was removed from the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) list. Up to that moment St. Maarten was listed as a Cat 2 country.

The removal is due to the fact that there are no St. Maarten-based airlines servicing US-destinations, while there have been no code sharing agreements with any US carrier for the past four years.

The civil aviation department is currently working hard to put the required corrections in place before the end of this year. Once that is done, the department will ask for an audit by the FAA with the objective of obtaining a listing as a CAT 1 country.

Once this is done St. Maarten-based airlines will again be able to fly to US destinations and to engage in code sharing agreements with US airlines.

Minister Johnson has labeled St. Maarten’s presence on the IASA-list as “a critical component of our ability to expand the hub function of Princess Juliana International Airport.” Johnson expressed in April his confidence in the ability to pass an FAA examination that would restore St. Maarten to CAT 1.

According to Louis Halley, the head of the Civil Aviation Department, St. Maarten’s downgrading to CAT 2 and its removal from the IASA-list were beyond the country’s control.

“Curacao was downgraded to CAT 2 after failing its audit,” he said in April. “At the time, Insel Air was also not flying to the United States. Since some of the responsibilities for St. Maarten’s aviation service were being executed in Curacao after 10-10-10 while St. Maarten was establishing its own civil aviation authority, we were automatically downgraded to CAT 2.”

Photo caption: File photo of SXM Airport. Photo by Daniel Jef.