The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Uganda’s air transport regulator recently launched a new Development Master plan which will include an upgrade of security equipment at Entebbe International Airport with a view to improving the airport to match international standards.
The Sunrise’s Henry Lutaaya spoke with the Authority’s Public Relations manager Ignie Igunduura as the Country marks the Aviation week on 7th December 2015. Below are excerpts:
Question: Security has remained top on the agenda for airports as well as for passengers in many countries. What steps is CAA taking to ensure you keep in step with the evolving security challenges.
Ans. Uganda has been implementing recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) among which is prioritisation of aviation security. This has meant training of aviation security personnel. We have equipped Entebbe with necessary technology and we are confident that we have acceptable levels of aviation security.
Question:How has Uganda faired in terms of security and safety over the past year, compared to neighbouring countries.
Ans. We have faired fairly well. You cannot compare a country’s level of security by looking at another country because each country has its own security challenges. Each country has to carry out its own situation analysis. Over the past year we’ve not had a major accident. We’ve had minor incidents.
We had an audit by ICAO in June 2014 which helped us to deal with some of the gaps.
After the audit, we submitted a corrective action plan to ICAO which is what we are working on right now. This includes drafting regulations to guide the aviation industry, training people and buying lots of equipment.
Question:Has the hash economic environment in Uganda in any way affected air travel?
Ans. Air transport like any other sector of the economy is dependent on how the economy performs. It would be too early for us to say how we’ve been impacted. Assessing to what extent we’ve been affected would require us to compare with the previous year, which we haven’t done yet. On the surface however, it looks positive. Remember, it is not only Ugandans flying. We have a number of international operators who bring passengers from countries that may be experiencing better economic conditions.
Question:How has the closure of British Airways affected CAA’s revenues?
Ans. Obviously, any departure affects our income through landing charges and other fees. The withdrawal alone by any operator will have an impact on us. But the full extent of BA’s departure is difficult to tell since there are alternative operators.
Question: Was the closure of British Airways due to falling passengers or traffic is moving into other directions?
Ans. They didn’t give clear reasons. They said they had reviewed their strategy. Probably they were forced by economic considerations and were trying to maximize benefits by minimizing costs.
I don’t think it was due to falling traffic. Perhaps because of increased competition, they discovered they could make more money on alternative routes.
Question: What does this mean in terms of promoting the Tourism sector for Uganda?
Ans. We cannot hide our heads in the sand about the impact of British Airways (BA) on our tourism especially given the fact that the UK is a major source of tourists for Uganda. However, because other operators have provided alternative connections to the UK, the impact of BA’s departure is likely to be minimal and short term.
Question: CAA launched a new Development Masterplan for Entebbe. How far have you gone towards implementing it?
Ans. We’ve gone a distance. On the 29th of August, 2015, His Excellence President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched the projects. The Cargo centre is the first project to be put up. The paper work for actualizing the agreements and Memoranda of Understanding are ongoing.
But the contractor – China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) is already on the ground. The loan we got from China (US$250m) will go towards the construction of the Chilling and Cold room facilities. The facility will also be handling dry cargo. The cargo centre will have capacity to handle 500,000 metric tones of cargo per year.
Question: How has the private sector responded to it?
Ans. The Private sector is obviously happy. Improved cargo facilities mean improved capacity for cargo handlers both for incoming and outgoing cargo. They cannot wait to see the cargo centre begin operating.
Question: Are the reported delays in the oil industry development’s in any way impacting the Masterplan?
Ans. Reported delays in oil production may affect our planning especially in as far as aviation fuel is concerned. We anticipated cheaper aviation fuel from the Albertine region.
The advantage we have though is that we’ve made progress towards constructing the airport. We have hired a consultant from Sweden who is carrying out a study of the Masterplan for an international airport in the oil region as well as developing engineering designs.
Question: There was excitement among the public the last time you organised leisure flights around Kampala during the Aviation Week. Why don’t you make it a routine event so as to popularise air transport.
Ans. We have been considering a repeat of the air show similar to what we had but it is very costly. But if you consider the benefit it may have in terms of enhancing the image of the organisation, it is worth it. We’ve not dropped the idea but we are carrying out further research. The truth is the event was actually very popular.