Experts from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have committed to providing additional technical assistance to Cambodia’s civil aviation authority in order to ensure the safety and security of the Kingdom’s air transport sector, as it prepares to welcome increased passenger traffic.

The commitment was made at a meeting between Minister in Charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Mao Havannall and ICAO and EASA representatives on February 23, where he underscored the secretariat’s commitment to ensuring air transport safety.

“Our main goal is to ensure the safety and security of air transport, which is down to the leadership and officials of the entire SSCA and the support of the international community,” he said.

Havannall also reaffirmed the importance of the international community’s support of Cambodia’s aviation sector, which he said has been unwavering since its post-Khmer Rouge era rehabilitation.

It was agreed at the meeting that technical assistance from France’s DGAC civil aviation authority would be provided to train Cambodia’s air transport personnel on airport skills, personnel licensing, and air and technical assistance.

EASA committed to assisting the state secretariat in preparing technical standards for the three components to an acceptable standard for its upcoming ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission audit, along with providing training in environmental work and information technology.

Nicolas Rallo, chief technical adviser and programme coordinator of the Cooperative Development of Operational Safety and Continuing Airworthiness Programme (COSCAP-SEA) of ICAO in Bangkok, said that despite its small size, Cambodia is becoming an increasingly attractive tourist destination, and the aviation sector will be a crucial part of this rise and must operate safely.

“We need to be well-organised and take care of all stakeholders to ensure security and safety,” he said.

A representative of EASA said that the work of the SSCA has been well done so far. But they noted that more attention should be paid by the state secretariat to the government’s request for a law to be passed as soon as possible this year to boost other core work such as staff recruitment and resource maintenance.

They pointed to a need to examine the financial feasibility of ensuring job security and training for new aviation industry recruits, especially as former aviation officers are expected to retire in the next one to two years. They also highlighted the need to redesign and update the SSCA website, and to develop online resources to help sector personnel maintain their skills and knowledge.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) adviser Ho Vandy told The Post that the upskilling of Cambodian aviation sector workers will increase confidence in air travel to and from the Kingdom and help boost the tourism sector.

“Technical assistance provided by the ICAO will increase confidence in the air freight business, especially amongst airlines that plan to operate flights transporting tourists to Cambodia – especially now that it has reopened to fully vaccinated tourists,” he said.

Cambodia Logistics Association (CLA) president Sin Chanthy told The Post that he welcomed the added technical support from international experts especially as it will improve the handling and transport of air freight, some of which was classified as high-risk. He said that in his more than 10 years of experience working with freight forwarders at Phnom Penh International Airport, technical awareness has always been essential.

“There are so many types of goods transported by air, including high-risk goods. A lot of awareness is required to reduce physical impact on such goods and ensure their safe transport, so the technical support from international experts is important to support our transportation sector needs,” he said.

SSCA reports show that air freight to and from the Kingdom reached 55,000 tonnes in 2021, increasing by about 28 per cent from the year before, while passenger traffic amongst the three airports decreased by 87 per cent compared to 2020.