ICAO more relevant than ever

Anew, clearer understanding between governments and the aviation industry means that a vision of an industry that is safer, more secure and environmentally sustainable within the next decade is achievable, the secretary general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Raymond Benjamin tells Payload Asia. Speaking recently in Singapore as part of the Civil Aviation […]


Anew, clearer understanding between governments and the aviation industry means that a vision of an industry that is safer, more secure and environmentally sustainable within the next decade is achievable, the secretary general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Raymond Benjamin tells Payload Asia. Speaking recently in Singapore as part of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) Distinguished Visitors Programme (DVP), Benjamin presented an optimistic vision for the aviation sector by 2020. “There are objective factors which will enable it to be the situation in ten years time and I believe that this is the case because there is a new understanding between the industry and government,” he said. “Our objectives are clear, it’s just the way we do business that has to change and we are going to change it,” he says. Central to this change is not only industry and national governments, but the role of ICAO in forging a global consensus. But is the 63-year old specialised agency of the United Nations still relevant in this era of not only rapid and often dramatic change, but one that often sees unilateralist responses from national governments? Benjamin is steadfast in his view that quite to the contrary, ICAO is more relevant than ever. Citing the example of last year’s December incident involving the ‘underwear bomber’, the ICAO chief said solutions were quickly agreed upon through a series of meetings with the European Union and the US Department of Homeland Security. “We came with a common attitude and ICAO was the one who led the effort in terms of finding a solution to this problem. It is maybe a matter of the Obama administration being more multilateral than the previous one, but what was clear was that they came to ICAO and in less than a year we got this declaration on aviation security which is setting out very clearly what we’re doing over the next three years,” the blueprint for which is essentially contained in the recent amendments to Annex 17. “ICAO in this way is relevant, provided that we are quick and understand what the solutions are together with these countries and then we make sure any solution is implemented and doesn’t just stay on paper.” This then highlights the next snag in the aviation industry fabric – the printer cartridge bombing attempt. “The threat was a very serious one and cargo security was more relaxed than passenger because we thought the threat was different. Now we know it is identical.” But to opt for 100 per cent screening as many politicians in the US are calling for, would “paralyse the whole of the trade,” Benjamin warns. “What we have to make sure of is that we are screening and we are making sure everything is fine. That doesn’t mean you have to get very costly equipment and block things for days and days on the tarmac. “We believe the Americans, the Europeans and others will come to ICAO because they have to find global solutions. What counts is that we have a secure supply chain,” Benjamin emphasises. ICAO will shortly be publishing guidelines in relation to this latest threat to air cargo. “We want to make sure even in poor countries where they cannot afford expensive equipment that what counts is the objective. They have to make sure their cargo is secure, they can do it in different ways – we’re not imposing any specific kind of way, they do it – because if not then their cargo will be banned from going to certain destinations and no one wants this.”