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Somalia and ICAO at odds over control of airspace

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has given the Federal Government of Somalia a tough choice over control of its airspace.

The Air Navigation Bureau of the ICAO has established a contingency plan that is comprised of measure that would limit the flow of air traffic into the country, should Somalia regain control of its sovereign airspace.

If airspace control is given to the Somali Civil Aviation Authority, the vertical separation for planes in Somalia will be boosted from 1000ft to 2000ft. Some routes will be shut down while other routes will be constrained. This contingency plan will significantly reduce the number of planes that can use Somali airspace.

ICAO noted safety concerns, but many aviation pundits argue that money might be a key factor in this decision.

Should Somalia decide not to accept the said terms, ICAO’s plans calls for the division of parts of Somali airspace between India and the Seychelles.

Somalia’s air troubles started in 1993 when the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and ICAO created the Technical Assistance Project (TAP) which was tasked with providing basic air services to Somalia.

Two years later, an operational station was settled in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

ICAO established the Civil Aviation Caretaker Authority for Somalia (CACAS) which was permanently based in Nairobi in 1996. CACAS’s obligation involved collecting over-flight revenues on behalf of Somalia and to reinvest the income into air traffic control and airport maintenance.

Somali officials have since then, strived to reclaim the airspace, including then

Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who asserted that the airspace issue was one of sovereignty.

“Definitely, we will reclaim that authority,” said Farmaajo, now Somalia’s President “It’s very simple. The airspace belongs to the Somali people. We are a sovereign country. This isn’t just about the money.”

But ICAO President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu has refuted claims that the control of Somali airspace would be transferred to nearby countries.

“I can confirm that the Somali airspace cannot be transferred,” Aliu said. “I have sent a letter explaining the situation surrounding the Somali airspace to the Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and he has been made aware that control (of the airspace) cannot be transferred.”

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