Airports below par

A local investigation has found serious shortcomings at all Namibia's airports and Walvis Bay harbour.

07 November 2018 | Transport

An oversight visit by the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and security has found serious security, infrastructure and surveillance equipment shortcomings at the country's airports and the port of Walvis Bay.

It also highlights that Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) is too small for the increase in services and that the country needs a bigger international airport which meets the international standards.

The visit also established that there were cases of prohibited items detected at the boarding gates of HKIA from the beginning of December 2016.

The report containing the committee's findings on security at the port of Walvis Bay, airports and aerodromes in Erongo, Khomas, Zambezi, Kavango, Oshana, Kunene and Otjozondjupa regions was tabled in parliament last week.

The report comes in the wake of growing concern about the upcoming ICAO security audit of Namibia's airspace scheduled for 18 to 28 November. Failing the audit could lead to a downgrade that would halt all international air travel to the country.

The oversight visits that were undertaken during February, April and May this year found that government ministries, agencies and state-owned enterprises and statutory bodies responsible for Hosea Kutako International Airport are faced with serious conundrums as to their readiness for the upcoming aviation security audit.

The committee described an incident in which a passenger illegally boarded a South African Airways plane in February this year as serious negligence by security officers of the private security company, police officers and the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) staff on duty.

According to the report this incident was still under investigation at the time of writing the report.

On 8 October the committee was assured by the NAC that it had since taken measures to prevent a recurrence of the security breach.

“Inadequate or no accommodation facilities, office equipment, security surveillance equipment at Hosea Kutako International Airport, Walvis Bay airport, Grootfontein Air Force base, Katima Mulilo airport and Rundu airport were found.”

Hosea Kutako

The most prominent security concern at HKIA was the illegal boarding of a South African Airways aircraft on 19 February.

According to the report an Angolan woman who came to Namibia when she was ten years old entered the aircraft through the staff entrance, which was unlocked because of a broken lock.

The report states that the NAC was informed of this broken door a “long time ago” and added that the primary screening point was left unmanned, although after hours.

The report highlights a lack of night patrols by the police and that terminal doors are not locked after hours and that there are no proper control mechanisms in place to hand over or receive keys.

“When constructed in the 1970s and 1980s before independence, HKIA was not meant to be an international airport but was built for local purposes. Thus, the existing building and infrastructure fall in most respects short of the required international standards,” the report reads.

It also states that terminal facilities at the airport cannot accommodate all arriving and departing passengers, visitors and staff.

“At the time of oversight visit, there were shortcomings with regard to manpower and 135 new staff had to be appointed.”

The report also states that the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was of the opinion that there was a lack of police officers trained in aviation security, and that security spots were inconsistently manned.

The police rejected this allegation as unfounded and “grossly tarnishing” the image of the Namibian police.

“NCAA also informed the committee that NAC collects funding from the public through a security levy for departing passengers but does not plough back into airport security equipment and personnel training, nor are these funds channelled to the police,” the report states.

The report also points out that on 17 February the NAC informed Nampol about the insufficient personnel in the police unit at HKIA, as well as lack of training in respect of officers in the unit.

This followed a security report by the airline in January which concluded that there is a huge shortage of police officers to operate X-ray machines, lack of training and lack of job knowledge and supervision of the NPS security company.

According to the report NAC wrote a letter on 8 October that a full workshop was held with the specialist at HKIA which established the Corrective Action Plan (CAP) Task Force and was attended by all relevant NAC employees and police officers.

The visit further found that the office block at the airport is just too small. It also found no closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system in the public, arrival and departure areas.

“X-ray security scanners manufactured and purchased from Astrophysics Inc. not functioning effectively, one scanner was broken, police officers manning the X-ray machines are not certified, enough X-ray machines have been purchased by NAC but some of these machines are not utilised optimally, nor NAC, NCAA or Nampol could specify whether the machines are defective, not installed and or activated [sic],” the report states.

It also finds that the luggage carousels are outdated and inadequate.

“Many times there are arrivals of more than 250 passengers. Most of the time, only one conveyer belt,” the report said.

The visit found that there is no private operator room to monitor the luggage scanner and as a result the officers are subjected to disturbances and lack of concentration which is in conflict with the international requirements.

“Air-conditioners were not functioning, causing major ... discomfort to passengers, staff and visitors. Incidents of fainting passengers were reported as about 300 passengers arrive at the same time. It was reported that passengers have to stand in queues for up to one hour and sometimes more before they leave the airport after arrival,” the report read.

It added that the ablution facilities and sewerage system at the airport were under immense pressure.

“Bathroom, comfort and toilet facilities are simply not adequate. Only two toilets, one for male and one for female, at the arrival hall. There are only one male and one female toilet in the departure hall and therefore compromise the hygiene and international standards.”

The committee has been informed by the NAC that they would need about N$255 million to upgrade the airport to meet the requirements of ICAO and to avoid a possible downgrading.

“NAC also appealed to the committee to facilitate the availing of funds required to install the said security system at HKIA and to source the deficit of funds needed to execute the HKIA Congestion Alleviation Project in the amount of almost N$61 million.”

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