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Nepal trapped in between two commercial giants in airlines’ blacklisting case

Nepali domestic aircrafts at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. Photo: File photo
Nepali domestic aircrafts at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. Photo: File photo

KATHMANDU, Nepal – Nepal has been trapped in a business war between two business giants and forced to accept its airlines’ blacklisting. But, authorities are not in a mood to accept this as the European Commission (EC) unilaterally imposed ban on Nepali domestic airline companies to operate flights in the European zone.

“At the time when Nepal is improving its air safety measures, the so called ban imposed by the EC is condemnable,” Minister for Tourism Tek Bahadur Gharti Magar said during a programme organized by Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) on the occasion of its anniversary Saturday. The minister hoped for immediate removable of the decision as the country is making its best efforts to reduce the rate of non-compliance with eight areas audited by the United Nation’s global aviation watchdog to below the global average.

Both the minister and the CAAN officials were shocked after the EC published its decision to ban Nepali airlines in its website without informing the concerned authority in Nepal.

The CAAN said the “unexpected” decision of the EC to put all Nepali carriers on the EU air safety list has drawn its serious attention.

“We haven’t received any official statement from the EC about the decision, but we will be working to address all concerns raised by the EC and the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” said CAAN Director General Ratish Chandra Lal Suman. “The non-compliance rate will be reduced to below the global average within six months.”

According to CAAN, Nepal has made considerable progress by reducing the percentage of non-compliance with ICAO standards from 57 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2013, compared to global average of 39 percent. “However, we still have a challenge to reduce the rate of accidents.”

CAAN has introduced the Safety Management System by launching a vigorous safety awareness campaign. It has also adopted strict enforcement policy for non-compliance of safety regulations and safety violations, Suman said.

According to Rameshwor Thapa, president of the Airline Operators Association, the current decision of EC is directed from ‘their ill motives’. “The blacklisting is the outcome of unhealthy business competition between the European zone and China,” Thapa said, adding that the Nepali airline operators have been following and adopting the security measures accepted worldwide and will adopt any other measures in case of need.

Stating that the air transport is the major concern in the Himalayan nation like Nepal, Japanese ambassador to Nepal Masashi Ogawa said due to the Himalayan terrain the country is facing the real challenge to overcome accidental cases.

The worst fear of the domestic aviation sector came true Thursday after the EC issued statement calling ban for all Nepali airlines from flying in the skies of European Union member countries stating that number of air accidents started increasing in Nepal and the regulatory body failed to take effective measures to improve the country’s air safety standard.

In the statement, EC vice-president responsible for transport Siim Kallas said, “The safety situation in Nepal does not leave us any other choice but to put all of its carriers on the EU air safety list.” This effectively means that Nepali carriers are ‘prevented from flying into or within the EU’.

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