The Tourism Ministry has forwarded a draft of the Integrated Civil Aviation Bill to the Law Ministry for its inputs, almost a year after a government committee wrote it.
The proposal wants to split the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) into two separate entities: regulator and service provider.
Alok Chandra Shrestha, Chief of the Tourism Ministry’s legal division, said that the draft was directed to the Law Ministry last week for its approval.
“This is the first stage in the process,” he said, saying that after receiving input from the Law Ministry, it would be tabled in the Cabinet for its ratification.
Shrestha further explained that once the Cabinet gives the green light, the Tourism Ministry would arrange the final draft which will be sent to the Law Ministry and the Cabinet once more. Dialogs will be held on each clause in the bill at various parliamentary committees, and amendments may be made at this stage.
“Once it is finalized, it will be tabled in Parliament,” Shrestha said. “It’s difficult to say how much time it will take. It depends on the situation.”
After the bill is turned into law, it will supplant two existing laws: Civil Aviation Act 1959 and Nepal Civil Aviation Authority Act 1996.
One of the significant pieces of the bill is breaking up CAAN. As it is, the CAAN has been operating as both a regulator and a service provider from virtually the same office, and there is no clear delineation between its duties and organizational structure.
According to the draft bill, the CAAN will keep its mandate as regulator while a separate Airport and Air Navigation Services will be established to operate as service provider. The service provider will be a public limited company and be headed by a CEO. Its crucial tasks will include airport management, terminal management, ground handling, airport security, rescue and fire fighting, airport infrastructure development, airport fee and tax collection and air traffic control.
Additionally, the regulator will be responsible for licensing and regulating aviation professionals and pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers, airlines and aerodromes. The government has been working on the new law for the last eight years.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program has endorsed that CAAN be divided to make the aviation sector more efficient.
The new law will assimilate the previous acts to remove conflicts and contradictions between the CAAN and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, a situation that has been criticized in safety audits made by global aviation bodies.
The proposed law has imagined permitting the private sector to erect and operate airports. A draft of the new law looks kindly at potential privately operated airports, and it has also simplified the process for the government to privatize its existing airports.
According to the draft, the government has established five criteria for the construction of private airports.
The proposed airport must be feasible in terms of geographical, environmental and commercial factors. It should be viable in terms of the population size that will use the facility; local and foreign direct investment and social obligation. The government, however, will regulate the airport’s limits.