NEWS Alert

ICAO Asia-Pacific Conference Highlights Region’s Opportunities and Challenges Amid Rapid Growth

With the Asia-Pacific region on track to become the world’s largest air traffic market by 2022, high-level civil aviation officials met together at the 2018 ICAO APAC Ministerial Conference in Beijing last week to solidify shared commitments to critical aviation safety priorities, as well as to identify opportunities and challenges ahead.

During the two-day conference, civil aviation ministers from 36 governments in the Asia-Pacific agreed to continue efforts to establish independent accident investigation authorities and collaborate on aviation safety oversight, implementation of State Safety Programs (SSP) and airport certification. Conference attendees also committed to achieving seamless air traffic control among their member states by the year 2022.

“The Asia Pacific today is seen as a very promising region with great potential, but there are also some serious challenges for many local governments,” commented ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu in a speech to the conference, stressing that despite rapid growth in the areas of air traffic, operator complexity, and fleet capacity, there was “quite low” corresponding growth in the resources and capabilities of APAC member states’ regulatory authorities.

Dr. Liu also underscored the need to raise both the region’s and member countries’ Effective Implementation (EI) scores, a metric used to gauge compliance with ICAO’s eight Critical Elements (CEs) of an effective aviation safety oversight system. The Asia-Pacific’s collective regional Effective Implementation average currently stands at 60%, which is below the world average of 65%.

Roncevert Almond, a Partner and Vice President at The Wicks Group (TWG), pointed out that a core challenge facing the Asia-Pacific is ensuring the region’s infrastructure can keep pace with surging international demand for air transport.

“The forecasts predict that travel demand will grow 5.7 percent annually, and by 2036 passenger traffic throughout Asia will constitute nearly 40 percent of global passenger traffic,” Mr. Almond observed. “China, India, and other emerging markets in the region, like Indonesia and Vietnam, are the main engines of this economic advancement.”

Alongside ensuring that the region’s aviation markets possess adequate infrastructure to facilitate future air travel, Mr. Almond commented, “such states will need to develop the physical, technical, regulatory and human capacity to support this growth to ensure the safe and orderly development of aviation, the objective of the international civil aviation system led by ICAO. We know through our work in the Asia-Pacific that meeting this challenge requires, first and foremost, the requisite political will.”

Asia and the Pacific currently manage 29% of global air traffic—the second-largest market share in the world—with an air transport sector employing over 30 million people and contributing more than $630 billion to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that by 2036, 7.8 billion people will travel globally, 3.5 billion of whom will do so to, from, or within Asia and the Pacific. IATA further estimates that 1.5 billion of these passengers will touch on the People’s Republic of China, which IATA says will likely surpass the United States as the world’s largest single aviation market as early as 2022.

"If we look at the growth over the next few years, half the growth will be here in the Asia Pacific market," says Randy Tinseth, Vice President of Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. In the last 9 months alone, Boeing delivered 9 new 737 MAX aircraft to 8 different airlines throughout the Asia Pacific region, including China Southern Airlines, which ordered 2. According to the aircraft manufacturer, one in three of all 737s is delivered to China.

"This is a market that has been performing well, both in terms of traffic growth for passengers as well as cargo. It's our biggest market for single aisle airplanes, the biggest market for wide bodies, and the biggest market for freighters. So, this is the future of aviation."

TWG has broad experience providing legal, regulatory and technical assistance services to civil aviation authorities throughout the world. For more information about TWG’s legal and consulting services, please contact Roncevert Almond at ralmond@wicks-group.com.

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