A Personal View: Expressed by Tony Blackiston

A Personal View: Expressed by Tony Blackiston

As we approach IATA’s AVSEC World Day in Athens, there is no doubt in my mind that an old chestnut will reappear. There will be a rally cry from the numerous panellists and delegates along the lines of, “We must address the current and emerging security challenges by sharing information, using international best practices and pooling resources – we are stronger together!”

With that said, I want to share with you that I intend to engage in a form of word bingo. Some of you may be familiar with the game, but instead of shouting out “Bingo!” each time the rally cry or the sentiment appears, I will simply smile broadly – not because I’m cynical but because I can’t help but acknowledge the reference as EITHER a missed opportunity OR part of an exciting new chance for our industry to move forward

A big part of moving forward is the wonderful opportunity that I have just mentioned. Have I gone completely mad? I’m talking, of course, about the recently released ICAO’s Global Aviation Security Plan or GASeP.

You are probably smiling now (for another reason) and thinking, ‘I’ve heard all this before from ICAO and States in the form of the Comprehensive Security Plan whereby States committed to do all they could to plug security shortcomings and to meet ICAO’s minimum security standards and recommended practices…and nothing really changed!’ I don’t think that is entirely true but certainly there was not enough change. Moving forward, I want to make it clear that I believe a lot has now changed with the adoption of the GASeP and there is potential for change in the future through it.

Like many people, I do not think the GASeP is perfect, but when all parties agree to focus on the five key priorities and implement the respective regional roadmaps, then this is a good springboard to fundamentally improve global security. I was encouraged to see the GASeP incorporate a risk-based approach. From an industry perspective I hope that in the future we will see greater emphasis on sustainable solutions that incorporate technical advances in facilitation, cater for innovation and remove redundant security processes.

….without clear metrics to measure performance, the GASeP risks being irrelevant…

What makes the current GASeP different to past plans is the clearly defined and shared roles for industry – it’s not just about States now. So what makes this a wonderful opportunity? Well, I hope we are witnessing a shift from States commonly telling aviation participants how to mitigate risks without consultation to a situation in which industry can be involved in the “whats, whens, wheres and hows” to meet the challenges. This is the first time, that I am aware of, where ICAO is formally saying to “interested parties from industry” (and I will come back to this point later) that they have roles to play and need to be involved in the solutions to address the five key GASeP priorities. To many, this may appear to be just a symbolic gesture, but I believe it is much more. States (via ICAO) have formally acknowledged the role that industry plays (whether that be airlines, airport, service providers, contractors, etc). You may say industry is already involved in part with some of the decision-making, so why is this so significant? I would suggest that by naming industry in the GASeP, States and industry now have to formally show that they are working towards common goals and in fact there is a need to report periodically (and that includes industry) to ICAO on how these goals are being achieved.

For many years, industry has been lobbying for a greater say in security decision-making. Many international security best practices come from within industry, particularly in the area of key performance indicators and performance management, and these areas will be crucial to the success of the GASeP. Without clear metrics to measure performance, the GASeP risks being irrelevant.

I was fortunate to recently attend the ICAO Regional Security Conference in Panama where the Contracting States representing South America and the North America and Caribbean ICAO regions affirmed their commitment to the GASeP via the ICAO Regional Roadmap. I had two clear takeaways from this conference. Firstly, ICAO, States and industry in the regions confirmed their willingness to seek opportunities to work closely together and secondly a number of airlines were present. In fact, one very senior and experienced airline security professional confided that this was the first ICAO meeting he had ever attended. I was both pleased that he was present and saddened that his wealth of experience and knowledge had not been captured and shared at past ICAO events.

In conclusion, I’m clearly happy that industry is mentioned in the GASeP or more specifically mentioned as “interested parties from industry” and let me assure all, industry (I speak from airline experience) is a VERY INTERESTED PARTY and let’s smile because if GASeP is used correctly it will allow all to work together to achieve common goals.