St. Lucia has hinted at the possibility of leaving the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) after claiming that the Antigua-based organisation was hampering the development of the airline industry here.
Civil Aviation Minister, Guy Joseph, told a news conference that a number of airlines seeking to operate in and out of the island are encountering difficulties acquiring the requisite licences.
“At present my department we are working on a couple of areas where if an American based airline wants to operate in St. Lucia, they would need certified TSA persons to do their baggage handling and things of that nature,” he said.
Joseph said that there were also a “couple of airlines and there is one airline that was already providing service to St Croix and the northern Caribbean, and because of the challenges they were facing had ceased operations.
“But they have decided to recommence operations and we are also in discussion with them to get a 40 seater to run at least between St. Lucia all the way up to Jamaica,” the Civil Aviation Minister said, without elaborating.
But he said the local authorities are working on obtaining the requisite licences.
Joseph recalled that some time ago, Castries had indicated it was considering pulling out of the ECCAA and aligning itself with a similar organisation because of the inability to get issues decided upon.
“We have not taken this option off the table completely,” he said, adding that local authorities are working as best as they can to resolve matters.
Joseph told reporters that “quite a few airline people” who have shown interest in St.Lucia continue to visit his office highlighting the challenges they face in obtaining a licence from ECCAA.
”I can tell you that while we are encountering difficulty other Islands aren’t, with some having as many as four airlines with licences operating on their turf.
“There are all kinds of issues being continually raised to hinder our progress in obtaining a licence to operate an airline from Saint Lucia and we do not intend to continue to be held hostage,” Joseph said.
The ECCAA serves the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) as the aviation accident and incident investigation authority of its jurisdiction.