Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sanctions and Safety

During a recent conference about Aviation Insurance, Risk Management, Safety and other Legal Requirements and Regimes. The issue of Sanctioned countries came up and the associated difficulties of operating within these countries.

Sanctions are a political reality. The rationale behind them is to make life for the ruling regime and the people so  difficult that the people will get rid of the government and install, for want of a better word, a "GOOD" one. Do sanctions work? sometimes but not very well. After all, there is a disconnect between a repressive regime and its people, so don't expect elections or violent uprisings. All the countries of the Arab Spring/Awakening, with the exception of Syria, did not have any sanctions imposed on them. While countries like Iran, Cuba and North Korea are still there and getting more radical.

Sanctions do affect Civil Aviation and in the worst way; no access to components, maintenance and other services, training, manuals and even insurance. USA and EU sanctions are being enforced more vigorously these days. Service providers are being warned and pushed into compliance.

In 1989 Syria was under a USA embargo, and still is So when the time for their B727 D Checks came due, the question was put to Boeing by the service provider, Royal Jordanian, on how would the sanctions affect the maintenance work. Boeing's answer was, safety and airworthiness issues are exempt but we decide what is a safety or airworthiness issue.  The same treatment was not accorded to Libya. 

One of the discussion papers in the conference was about the difficulty for a western entity to perform incident and/or safety investigations in sanctioned countries (basically Iran) and how the sanctions were taking their toll on the airlines in terms of Safety and Airworthiness.

During one of the round table discussions, sanctions were criticised because of their effect on the movement of people, trade and how they rendered civil aviation unsafe. The call was for the insurance community to stand up and oppose sanctions. I don't think this is likely to happen, but hopefully to work with governments to soften the effects of sanctions. Interestingly, it was brought up during the discussion that Syrian Air is one of the safest airlines if not the safest in the world despite the sanctions. The inference was that Iran's aviation safety record deteriorated because of sanctions.

That maybe the case, but to blame sanctions for the actions or inactions of airlines management and their regulatory authorities is hiding behind politics. Sanctions do have an effect, this why they were imposed in the first place. Why is Syrian Air safe? because their management acts responsibly and grounds aircraft when they cannot be maintained properly. However, most of Iran's aviation incidents are on Russian built aircraft. 

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