December 7, 2010
Chastenet denies CARICOM Airways operated illegally

St. Lucia’s Tourism Minister, Allen Chastenet, has denied that CARICOM Airways is operating illegally.{{more}}

This came as a response to statements made by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves about the operations of the airlines.

Gonsalves made the statement in response to Chastenet’s “ultimatum” to the Government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines that unless it responds to the application for operation of CARICOM Airways in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia will stop SVG Air and Mustique Airways operating in St. Lucia.

Chastenet, responding to Gonsalves’ statement, said that the airline was operating under the Airline Operation Convention (AOC) from Suriname, which under the CARICOM Convention, allows member countries to accept each other’s AOC.

Gonsalves, during a ceremony at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies, on Thursday, November 25, stated that CARICOM Airways was operating illegally, as they have failed to address certain issues stipulated by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCA) for operation within the OECS.

The Prime Minister stated that the inadequacy of the airline’s insurance policy, the passenger liability and the single pilot operator for the islander aircraft are yet to be addressed by the airline company, and are some issues that his administration were discussing in relation to the airline’s operation here.

“Failure to address these issues means that CARICOM Airways is in breach of ECCA operation procedure, hence the airline is operating illegally,” Gonsalves said. “We cannot permit an aircraft to be in the air, unless all these matters are in place,” he added.

Gonsalves stated that once CARICOM Airways is in compliance with the law governing the operation of the airlines in the OECS, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Air Transport and Licensing board will consider reciprocal arrangements.

Chastenet, however, stated that the issue is not the case where St. Lucia is giving St. Vincent and the Grenadines an ultimatum, but that communication sent to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from St. Lucia about the airline’s operation was not given a response.

Chastenet said that a meeting was called in September to determine the status of the start up operations of the airline. He said that his permanent secretary spoke to a counterpart in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, when it was discovered that nothing had been done. He disclosed that a follow-up letter was then sent by the St. Lucia Ministry of Civil Aviation to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Chastenet expressed that the letter indicated that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is in possession of an AOC from Suriname, issued by a St. Lucia company, and that the government of St. Lucia would like a response to the application of CARICOM Airways, as the agreement between St. Vincent and St. Lucia was based on reciprocity.

Chastenet added that they have not received any word from the Government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines and had sent a written reminder of the agreement between both contries to the Civil Aviation Authority in St. Vincent, through the Ministry of Aviation, through the Air Licensing Committee, to respond within a week with regard to the application.