Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar tabled a bill in the House of Assembly yesterday to create an Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority.
The goal is to make accident investigators independent from the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority.
Delvin Major, the chief investigator of air accident investigations, said the bill and its accompanying regulations are necessary to bring The Bahamas in compliance with the International Civil Aviation convention, to which the country is a signatory. Annex 13 of that convention was recently amended.
“The biggest change is that annex 13 requires signatories go towards establishing an independent accident investigation unit that is separate and apart from the civil aviation authority or its departments,” Mr Major said.
“With accident and investigation being under Civil Aviation departments, when an accident happens, the Civil Aviation is the regulator and the investigator. That is a serious conflict because Civil Aviation would in a sense be investigating itself and there is no objectivity in that. We had an audit a few years ago that showed that we needed revised legislation and regulations that would empower us to carry out our functions, including making findings and following up with safety recommendations and making sure the (Department of) Civil Aviation and any other entity we may be investigating to ensure they carry out the recommendations.”
There are currently four investigators in the Air Accident Investigation Department. The new bill specifies how records received in the course of investigations must be protected. It makes it illegal for a person to circulate, publish or give access to a draft investigation report or any document obtained during an investigation of an accident or incident.
“This new bill also provides protection for a lot of the records and information that we gather as a result of our investigations,” Mr Major said.
“It now strengthens us from having to release that information to the public that do not have a need to know. We have to protect a lot of information we receive, some of it confidential, some medical, some proprietary that manufacturers do not want released to the public. Our laws had to be strengthened so these records cannot be reviewed by anyone other than for safety reasons and in order to get those records they would have to undergo a lengthy process.”
The government also tabled the National Crime Intelligence Agency Bill 2019 which does not vary much from the 2017 version of the bill tabled by the Minnis administration.