FIJI, VANUATU DISCUSS AIRSPACE REVENUE SHARING

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 1, 2002 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji and Vanuatu have discussed sharing the benefits from Nadi's control of Vanuatu's upper air space, with Vanuatu wanting to resolve this in the "Pacific Way."

Samoa and Tonga have already withdrawn from the Nadi-controlled Flight Information Region following deals with New Zealand. But Vanuatu said it preferred to discuss the situation in the "Pacific Way" under the Melanesian Spearhead Group umbrella.

Fiji, in turn, has said it will commission a study on how the benefits reaped from its flight information system can be shared with other countries covered by it.

Fiji has earned many millions of dollars through providing flight information to aircraft flying across the Pacific. This came through its control of the vast Nadi Flight Information Region set up in colonial times when Nadi International Airport was developed for trans-Pacific air services.

Fiji Aviation Minister Konisi Yabaki confirmed yesterday that Fiji has asked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to conduct the study "as soon as possible."

Mr. Yabaki said: "The Government will foot the costs of the study, which has yet to be worked out between ICAO and Airports Fiji Limited."

On Wednesday, Mr. Yabaki met with his Vanuatu counterpart Jackleen Reuben to discuss the issue.

Mr. Reuben said: "We are aware of the other options available to us like what Samoa and Tonga have done.

"But being a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group our government prefers that we resolve this in the ‘Pacific Way’ and under the MSG umbrella.

"Our Prime Minister is very anxious to see this resolved. For too long Fiji has been getting all the benefits, but now we realize the sharing of the resources is a better way to do it."

Fiji is estimated to have lost about F$ 3 million (US$ 1,315,950) a year through Samoa and Tonga shifting their upper air space to New Zealand control. New Zealand now pays the Samoans and Tongans an annual fee out of the money it earns.

New technologies mean vast areas of upper air space can be controlled from far away.

There were proposals to develop a regional company to provide upper airspace services and share revenues with all countries taking part. But this plan failed to go forward because of lack of regional agreement and rivalry between Fiji and New Zealand interests.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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