Ten days away from the Second Libya Aviation Forum and Expo set for 6 to 8 November, Adel Ben El Haj, Project Manager for organisers Hormuz Tours and Events, told Libya Herald that the event has arrived at a most critical stage for Libya’s aviation sector in view of the accelerated developments in 2023.
Reviewing and summarising developments in Libya’s aviation sector in 2023 and since the holding of the first Libya Aviation Forum and Expo in November 2022, Ben El Haj said it is now a matter of how many months until the EU air ban on Libya is lifted.
Preparing for the ICAO audit
One of the most prominent events in Libya’s aviation sector since the last Libya Aviation Forum and Expo was the holding of the Tripoli symposium on 9 October entitled ‘‘Preparing for the International (ICAO) Audit Programme on Libya in the Field of Civil Aviation’’. It was at this event that it was announced that that Italian Airlines will start flights to Tripoli at the end of November within the airliner’s winter calendar.
Tripoli International Airport to reopen in mid-2024
During the symposium, Tripoli based Libyan prime minister, Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba had said he expected Tripoli International Airport, currently under construction by Italian consortium Aeneas, to reopen in the middle of 2024.
He had also said Libya was holding talks with Turkish and Qatar Airways to resume their flights to and from Libya.
Lifting air embargo is Government’s most important goal
It was also stated at the symposium that lifting the air embargo is considered one of the most important goals of the Aldabaiba government because it will have a positive impact on attracting foreign influx and thereby enhancing the reality of sustainable development in Libya.
ICAO audit visit in 2024
ICAO is expected to begin its audit in March 2024 with the aim of lifting the air embargo imposed on Libya, it was announced at the symposium.
Four major airports will be audited by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2024. These will be Tripoli’s Mitiga, Misrata airport, Benghazi’s Benina airport and Tripoli International Airport – when its construction is completed.
Visiting civil aviation inspection teams have made positive reports on Libyan airports
At the October Tripoli symposium, the Director of the Civil Aviation Authority, Mohamed Shlebik, enumerated a list of international airliners and foreign civil aviation authorities that had considered Libya’s airports safe enough to allow flights from their countries.
He pointed out that the Egyptian Civil Aviation had sent more than one team to audit the procedures implemented by Libyan Civil Aviation and acknowledged in its report its acceptance of these and allowed Egyptian airlines to operate their flights to Libyan airports.
Shlebik highlighted the fact that UAE Civil Aviation allowed Libyan airlines to operate their flights to Dubai Airport after sending a team to evaluate the procedures enforced at Libyan airports, and the results were positive.
Jordan, Turkey and Italy
He said visiting civil aviation inspection teams came from Jordan, Turkey, and Italy to evaluate Libyan civil aviation, and most of the teams’ results were positive, but not sufficient for our ambitions, but at least they will remove the restrictions placed on flights.
The head of the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority reminded that Italy had recently lifted restrictions on Libyan airspace, and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two sides, and Italian airlines will begin operating flights to Libyan airports – which they have since his speach.
Shlebik said the general situation is better than it was before and called on all parties to support the Civil Aviation Authority and prepare for the upcoming ICAO’s audit of Libyan airports.
Raising standards to ICAO levels
At the 2022 Libya Aviation Forum and Expo it was announced that Libya’s aviation sector is below the world average in the implementation of ICAO regulations.
It was also stated at last year’s event that the EU flight ban is costing the Libyan state millions in lost revenues in hard currency.
Training to meet ICAO standards
Hence part of fulfilling ICAO’s conditions and the conditions of several visiting foreign aviation inspection teams is improving the performance of Libyan aviation sector / airports’ staff through training to international standards. Part of this effort was the engagement of American company Culmen International to provide training and consultancy.
Culmen to train Sebha airport staff and provide spare parts
On 10 October this year, a meeting was held at the Libyan Airports Authority Tripoli headquarters with Culmen International, attended by the Head of the Airports Authority, Mohamed Bait al-Mal and Director General of Sebha Airport, Al-Tahir Abu Al-Gasim, and several office directors and department heads in the Airports Authority.
It was agreed at the meeting to include training programmes specializing in the operation and maintenance of security devices and equipment used at airports, including automatic detection and inspection devices and security monitoring systems, in addition to agreeing to provide the Airports Authority with the necessary spare parts to maintain devices for detecting traces of explosives.
New destinations to Asian countries
In a related context, in March 2023 the Libyan African Aviation Holding Company (LAAHC) revealed that state-owned Libyan Airlines discussed opening new destinations to Asian countries. LAAHC owns both the two main state airliners, Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways.
The news was revealed after a meeting held by the Director of the Asia and Australia Department at the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nuri Fadel Al-Kaseh, with the Chairman of the Libyan African Aviation Holding Company (LAAHC), Ibrahim Abdel Karim Elias.
The meeting was devoted to following up and activating the Libyan agreements concluded with Asian countries in aviation fields. The meeting discussed the agreements and memorandums of understanding signed with Asian countries in the field of aviation and the most successful ways to activate them. Obstacles faced to achieve the future vision of opening new destinations for Libyan airlines to Asian countries were also discussed.
This year’s event is critical and vital
Reviewing all of the above, Adel Ben El Haj, Project Manager for organisers Hormuz Tours and Events said the 2023 Libya Aviation Forum and Expo will build on where discussions left off at last year’s event, and that this year’s event is indeed very critical and rich in vital issues to be debated.
Adel Ben El Haj said local and international participants and speakers will have real contributions to make to the topic of the hour: the lifting on the EU flight ban and the reinstating of Libya’s aviation sector. He said Libya can look forward to the aviation sector becoming a driver of the economy by contributing directly and indirectly to development and growth. To this end, this year’s event is dealing with a live topic.