In a presentation aimed at highlighting the impact of global terrorism with a view to curbing remote and immediate threat to civil aviation through aviation security, Former Managing director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) now Managing Partner, Avialog Company Ltd, Richard Aisuebeogun gave an in-depth look on how aviation security should be handled especially now in a world where terrorism seem to reign supreme in the skies.
Speaking in Accra, Ghana at the 10th African Air Transport Safety and Security Summit held at the Best Western Premier Hotels, Aisuebeogun described aviation terrorism as any threat to aviation security against the background of interference to civil aviation which occurs in many forms as: hijack of an aircraft for suicide attacks and hijack of an aircraft for hostage/ransom.
“Hijacking is a major threat to Civil Aviation from 1947- 1958 we had 23 hijacks and it increased exponentially from 1968- 1972 when we had 364 hijacks”
Bombing of an aircraft and attacks on parked aircraft, attempts to bring down an aircraft with SAM weapons (Surface-to-air-missile), shelling of airports and passenger attack at airports, biological attacks, chemical/Bio-toxin attack all of which cause pain, trauma and even fatality.
Aviation Terrorism, according to him, therefore refers to all forms of terrorist attacks directed towards any aviation facility.
Aisuebeogun went on to state that airports and aircraft continue to offer a series of highly attractive targets to terrorists and insurgents for reasons including and not limited to the high value of the aircraft themselves, the concentration of people (often representing different nationalities) as soft target, the automatic media coverage (breaking news/headlines) generated by aviation related terrorism due to the drama, publicity and psychological effect associated with it as well as the uniqueness of airlines and airports as veritable instruments of national identity makes it supreme targets for terrorist attacks.
With this established, what can be done to curb remote and immediate threat to Civil Aviation security in Africa?
The speaker said it was noteworthy that the protection of civil aviation against global terrorism (Aviation Security) is normally tackled by a 2-prong approach including Regulatory Framework and Technical/Physical Protection Measures.
He said,”The regulatory framework for the protection of civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference is established by the International Civil Aviation Organization and domesticated by the Member State Civil Aviation Authority for implementation by service providers.
“ICAO is saddled with the responsibility of setting up Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) necessary for the regulation of air navigation. These SARPS are detailed as 18 annexes to the Chicago Convention and reviewed regularly and Aviation Security is detailed as Annex 17
He went on to add that, “It is obvious that Technology alone cannot safeguard worldwide security without an active involvement of the human elements, a highly trained and properly motivated professional staff is required at all levels.”
“High emphasis is therefore placed on the continuing high level professional training of the staff worldwide and this requires that each country must make appropriate resources available.”
On the technical/physical measures he talked about the use of Airport Perimeter Control. “African airports within the limit of resources available to them have secure the perimeters of the airports by providing both Perimeter and Operational fences in some airports. The World Bank is also assisting us with some perimeter fence work. “
“We have also provided access control at designated gates / entry points to ensure strict access control to the airside so that only genuine passengers and staff gain access to.
“African airports are equipped with perimeter roads to enable security patrol and aid emergency operations and all entry points/gates are also manned and access control measures put in place to prevent intrusion.”
Despite measures put in place to curb acts of terror, there are a myriad of challenges of which one is the terminal density due to growth experienced in traffic in Africa in the last 20 years, then there are others including funding which is also tied to other aspects as technology, manpower shortage, training and others.
Aisuebeogun said,” African Air Transport industry has been experiencing growth in the last two decades which has led to terminal density exceeding critical design levels as such raise security challenges associated with an overcrowded terminal building. For instance, a space designed for 1500 people now handles 15,000 people, making security very challenging. There’s therefore the need to expand airport facilities.”
On technological support he said,”The minds of terrorists and criminals are working round the clock churning out innovative ways to beat the security system. It is therefore necessary for African Air Transport industry to use high technological equipment to enhance surveillance and detection of criminal activities. Such as the 3D Full Body Scanner (FBS), EDS, millimetre wave scanners etc. Most of these equipment are expensive and therefore not readily affordable at our airports.”
On funding he continued, ”Presently, funding issues have become quite critical, however, there are a lot of safety/ security critical issues that urgently need the attention of government to curb Aviation security threat across Africa. This paucity of fund invariably affects our capacity to implement global standards required to enhance Aviation security. For example, Perimeter fencing- most of our airports are only partially fenced which attracts unwanted trespassing.”
“This implies that our airports are porous and any intelligent person with malicious intentions may succeed in getting into restricted areas. Some of these security issues dovetail into safety issues.”
On the way forward, Aisuebeogun stated that African Air Transport industry policy makers need to realize that curbing remote and immediate threats to Aviation security is expensive but worthwhile and the cost of lack of adequate security is much more expensive.
It is therefore necessary for the government of African countries to make adequate resources available to meet up with these commitments.
“We must be ready to spend sufficient funds to improve aviation infrastructure. The UAE budgeted over $57.7m on Aviation Security in 2015. In Kenya also, the government has earmarked 6.4 billion Kenyan Shillings for aviation security in 2015.”
“Going forward, African air transport industry leaders must be prepared to: upgrade aviation infrastructure, upgrade aviation security through proper recruitment, kitting and training, ensure coordination of efforts by all security agencies, ensure proper funding of aviation security programmes and ensure provision of modern security equipment.”
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