The Ministry of Transport has begun looking at the possibility of decoupling the regulatory and air navigational service functions of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in line with international best practice and to ensure operational efficiency.
The GCAA, which is the industry regulator, is also in-charge of Air Navigation Service provision within the Accra Flight Information Region (FIR).
However, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has been calling for the separation of the two functions to ensure operational efficiency and improved safety on the continent.
At the opening of a three-day Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) conference in Accra yesterday, Transport Minister, Fifi Kwetey, said the country stands to gain a lot under a regime of an independent regulator separate from Air Navigation Service (ANS) provision.
“The benefit of separating regulation from service provision are well known. The successes and achievement chalked by independent ANS providers here present is a testimony of how the separation of the two entities can ensure focus, eliminate conflict of interest and increase operational efficiency and performance.”
The first decoupling initiative in 2006 separated airport operation from the Civil Aviation Authority but maintained air navigational service provision as part of the functions of the regulator.
“This initiative was undoubtedly a great success as we now have more efficient entities. We are optimistic that the recent initiate of the Ministry of Transport and the GCAA to commence studies into the separation of ANS provision from the regulator will be highly successful and bring about the needed operational benefits,” the minister said.
Director-General of CANSO, Jeff Poole, said the decoupling of the GCAA is in the best interest of the country and air space users.
“What we want ANS providers to do is to operate like normal businesses and be able to make their own investment decisions and improved performance and be much-more customers focused and the customers here are the air space users. Our experience over the years in other countries is that when you separate the regulator from the service provide, then that unlocks that sort of value.”
He added that: “It is important to ensure that the regulator has a clear role to set the requirement and to regulate the body that is providing the ANS. Equally, it is important the ANS provider is also able to make its own commercial decision, react quickly to changes in the airline community and be very much customer focused, improve in safety for the benefit of everybody.”
He said CANSO would like to see a much more self-sufficient arrangement where ANS providers have control over their revenues and their costs and can operate as normal businesses.
“The government then therefore becomes a shareholder; a controlling shareholder because it is setting the regulatory framework and setting certain performance targets for the ANS provider. We believe and have evidence that that is a much-better system than having the ANS provider and the regulator all within the same government department.”
The delineation, however, is expected to leave the regulator short on revenue for its operations given that it relies heavily on the services provided by its air traffic control arm for revenue.
Its precarious financial position is also occasioned by the decision of the Togolese Civil Aviation Authority to now manage their own airspace.
The GCAA, in view of the looming decoupling, is seeking to implement a US$10 per passenger and US$20 per tonne of cargo as ‘safety charge,’ on every international air-ticket and cargo in the country, following the passage of the Ghana Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act 2016.
Air navigation service providers (ANSP) provide air traffic management; communications, navigation and surveillance systems; meteorological service for air navigation; and aeronautical information services among others.