The last two years have proven to be the most challenging years in the history of civil aviation because of COVID-19. The pandemic affected all industries, sectors and aspects of our lives with devastating economic and financial losses and significant uncertainties. For the air transport and tourism sectors, COVID-19’s impacts have been profound. Despite this, 2021 was a year that brought collaboration between the aviation industries and public health sectors. Notwithstanding the ongoing challenges, the APAC region effectively implemented annual activities as planned. From the onset of the crisis, the APAC Regional Office adapted their ways to interact and communicate with Member States in the region. To this end, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight briefly the activities undertaken by the ICAO APAC Regional Office in 2021, as well as the priorities planned for 2022.
Some key activities of 2021 included:
- The ICAO APAC COVID-19 Contingency and Recovery Planning Group (ACCRPG) and its Sub-groups were established in June 2020 to assist and facilitate Member States with the implementation of the CART (ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force) Recommendations and Take-off Guidance continued to meet throughout 2021. The ACCRPG served as a useful platform for sharing of COVID-19 related experiences and information. The First ACCRPG Annual Report to APAC DGCAs was presented in July 2021 summarizing the key activities and achievements.
- In addition to the ACCRPG, the APAC Regional Office has successfully conducted a number of meetings, namely, COVID-19 Information Sharing Session with APAC CAA Director Generals, WHO Joint Webinar on a multi-sectoral approach to restart aviation, ICAO Aviation – Public Health Experts’ Roundtable, Economic Webinar, APAC COVID-19-Related ATM operations and Contingency Coordination meetings, Joint ICAO-ACI Information Sharing Session for PSIDS, Facilitation Webinar and other various virtual webinars.
- The APAC Regional Office has effectively assisted States in specific technical subject areas in their efforts to restart aviation in a safe and secure mode through the ICAO Implementation Packages (iPACKs) relating to Aviation Safety Risk Management; Air Transport Facilitation; Aerodrome Restart and Public Health Corridor.
- On 20 August 2021, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, ICAO Secretary General and APAC CAAs participated in a virtual call. During the session, the new SG reiterated ICAO’s commitment to continuously support the respective governments in their endeavors and efforts to recover from the global pandemic and restart the international aviation sectors.
- The ICAO APAC team swiftly responded to the ATM contingencies in 2021, amongst others;
- A Yangon (Myanmar) FIR Contingency Coordination Team (CCT) was formed by ICAO APAC to coordinate the operational response to the unavailability of ATC Service, for flights transiting the Yangon FIR. Several major ATS routes from East Asia and SEA to South Asia, the Middle East and Europe cross this airspace.
- Kabul FIR (Afghanistan) Contingency Coordination Team Meeting was conducted to provide Afghanistan ANS SITREP updates, updates on current and expected security situation, traffic data and observations, and contingency planning and responses.
- Through exchanges of information and video teleconferences, the team ensured all stakeholders were fully aware of the contingency plan and procedures.
- Whilst the strong focus for 2021 was to address the challenges arising from COVID-19, the Regional Office continued executing its annual work activities as scheduled. Among the major meetings that were held, there was RASMAG/26, RASG-APAC/11, RASCF-APAC/9, APANPIRG/32 and its sub-group meetings.
- In coordination with ICAO Headquarters and commitment from relevant States, Significant Safety Concerns (SSCs) in one APAC Member State was successfully resolved.
The main priorities for 2022 will be to:
- Actively support Member States in their efforts to recover from the pandemic as they adapt to the “new normal” while the aviation sector takes steps to restart in earnest.
- Collaborate with the relevant entities on the implementation of the recommendations stemming from the PSIDS Aviation Needs Analysis Study.
- Assist APAC States, in particular Pacific Island States, to enhance their aviation safety and security standards, resolving any Significant Safety/Security Concerns and improving Effective Implementation (EI) levels for safety and security through capacity-building activities.
- Foster and support Member States in the implementation of Beijing Civil Aviation Ministerial Conference commitments and the elements of APAC Seamless ANS Plan as well as providing technical assistance to address ANS Deficiencies.
- Coordinate and organize the 58th Conference of Directors General of Civil Aviation, Asia and Pacific Regions, in the Republic of Korea, from 4-8 July 2022.
- Work closely with Member States and ICAO Headquarters to ensure the success of the 41st Session of the Assembly of ICAO, scheduled for 27 September to 7 October 2022 and that the region is well represented.
Finally, yet importantly, I wish to reiterate that the APAC Regional Office is committed to supporting Member States in their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in strengthening international aviation safety and security standards and promoting sustainable air transport system in 2022 and years to come.