A new law designed to improve the safety of Bahrain's airline industry has been approved by the kingdom's Shura Council, a report said.
It makes provisions for closer scrutiny during aircraft inspections and preventing planes from taking off if they do not have certificates stating they are in excellent condition and suitable to fly, according to the report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
It was approved yesterday by the Shura Council and includes 143 articles related to the safety, security and comfort of passengers from the moment they arrive at the airport until they reach their destination.
Parliament has already approved the new Civil Aviation Law, which will now go to His Majesty King Hamad for ratification.
Transportation Minister Kamal Ahmed told the GDN that Bahrain was 71 per cent compliant with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) quality criteria and this figure would increase with the new law.
"The only reservations from the ICAO are that Bahrain's aviation legislation is old," the minister said yesterday.
"The last civil aviation law was issued in 1995 without taking into consideration new advancements. It was huge work on my shoulders to come up with a new law in co-ordination with the ICAO in line with its regulations and the Chicago Civil Aviation Convention and now, after eight months, it has been passed by parliament and the Shura Council.
"It is incredible that we managed at short notice to complete a 143-article law that addresses all world changes dealing with the licensing of planes, responsibilities of captains, transfer of passengers and luggage and penalties for trespassing in the country's territorial airspace without prior authorisation - besides all technical aspects that would help regulate the aviation field."
He said Bahrain International Airport was ranked second in the region behind Dubai International Airport, but this could change thanks to the new legislation.
However, he added it was key to pass the new law before auditors arrive later this month to inspect Bahrain's aviation sector.
"International aviation auditors will make us top in the region as other competitors are still working on new legislation," he said. "The auditors will come at the end of the month and we are now ready more than ever to explore new heights that we have never reached."
The minister earlier revealed Gulf Air had lost a codesharing deal with American Airlines due to loopholes in Bahrain's outdated aviation legislation.
The new law addresses a range of issues and makes plane captains responsible for the safety of passengers and their property from the moment plane doors are closed.
However, civil aviation authorities will be able to send inspectors to monitor the performance of captains and airline staff. Captains will be granted the right to take any action before, during or after a flight against disruptive or suspicious passengers.
Meanwhile, in the event of an accident, operators will be obliged to make down-payments even if they are not found to be responsible and a court will later determine if the money should be used as part of a compensation package.
Civil aviation officials selected by the concerned minister will also be able to cancel licences of operators, captains, support staff and crew members in the event of violations being uncovered.
A captain who does not follow instructions or jeopardises passengers' lives could have their licence terminated and would face up to three years in jail, as well as a fine of no less than BD3,000 ($7,827).
"This new law will give Bahrain the necessary reputation for international investors to operate from Bahrain International Airport as a strong transit hub," said council public utilities and environment affairs committee secretary Mohammed Radhi.
"The law will also help open new doors for Bahrain in international markets through new agreements in the field, especially with US partners - the world's biggest airliners."
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