The Airports Authority of Jamaica recently hosted the 49th ACI Fund and CIFAL Training seminar at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. The sessions were held between May 21 and 23.

The Seminar, held under the theme, “Airports and Environmental Sustainability’, saw presentations from various experts and entities representing a number of countries. Each CIFAL  (International Training Centre for Local Authorities) is a hub for capacity building and knowledge sharing between local and regional authorities, national governments, international organisations, the private sector and civil society.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. Omar Davies said that the presentations from the seminar can only ‘serve to enrich our understanding of this very important area of national economic development’. Continuing he said, “ with better and more widespread appreciation of the issues should come empowerment, to inform and deliver policy initiatives aimed at improving the operations of our airports, even as we seek to observe the tenets of sustainable development.”

In citing two of the goals that will inform the ‘Vision 2030’Plan for Jamaica to attain developed country status by 2030, Minister Davies noted that these goals (that Jamaica should have a healthy natural environment and that Jamaica’s economy should be prosperous) highlight the importance placed on the need for economic development even whilst ensuring good environmental stewardship. He said that one of the key objectives of Vision 2030 is to expand Jamaica’s domestic and international air transport infrastructure and services. To this end, he said that the government had been working hard toward this objective and was very pleased that the country’s international airports had been significantly upgraded over the last 10 years through their respective capital development programmes. He boasted of the fact that Jamaica could now celebrate the fact that it had two modern international airports, with world class facilities, amenities and services that can compare favourably with other airports across the region and the world.

Turning to the matter of developments at both airports, Dr. Davies said that there were well advanced discussions related to both airports and the extension to their runways and the implementation of Runway End Safety Area (RESA). Additionally, he said, the airports, through the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) would have newly built Air Traffic Control Towers within the next two years.

In underscoring the environmental factors associated with these airport developments, the Minister said that in the case of Sangster, it was situated in the vicinity of a marine park and nearby hotel developments while in the case of Norman Manley, it is located in a declared environmentally-protected zone. It is against this background, the Minister said, that the airport management and the relevant regulatory agencies have to work to ensure that all the requirements outlined in the respective Environmental Impact Assessments are appropriately addressed.

The Minister concluded his presentation by saying, “Jamaica is committed to the principles of sustainable economic development. In keeping with this, and the plans for developing our international gateways, we know there are key environmental imperatives which must guide the expansion of these important national assets which facilitate economic growth through the international linkages they open to passengers and for the movement of cargo.”

At the Opening ceremony, Mr. Earl Richards, President and CEO of the AAJ received an award for environmental matters on behalf of the AAJ. A call was also made for closer collaboration between the AAJ and Hartsfield –Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.