Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bid to Relocate Air Industry Freight and Passenger Security and Safety Authority Resolved

Canada Secures Another 20 Year Lease Extension on ICAO after Middle Eastern Bid Withdrawn
Shipping News Feature

CANADA – QATAR – WORLDWIDE – News of a mysterious change of heart comes in following our story in April in which we outlined details of a bid by the Qatari authorities to have the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) transferred from Montreal to Doha when the current lease runs out in 2016. Although often thought of as a passenger orientated branch of the United Nations the ICAO has deeply entrenched interest in the freight and logistics sector, particularly regarding the security of shipments, many of which are carried in the belly holds of modern passenger aircraft.

The Qatari bid came as a surprise to many as Canada has hosted the ICAO HQ since 1947 and the offer to provide brand new facilities, apparently free of charge, allegedly cited several reasons ranging from the Canadian climate and distance from the growing aero industry trade hub in the Middle East to excessive taxes and difficulties experienced by some delegates to obtain visas.

About a week ago the Qatari embassy in Ottawa withdrew the bid without giving a reason after some heavyweight lobbying by the Canadians who moved swiftly to negate any further problems by negotiating a new supplementary agreement last week on the current headquarters which extends the tenancy to November 2036. The new lease extension comes into force at the end of 2016, when the current Supplementary Agreement, signed in 1996 when the purpose built premises were inaugurated, expires. ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin commented:

“Montréal has been our home for many decades, while the offer to move us to Doha was extremely generous, ICAO is also very pleased to continue its global mission with the support and cooperation of the Canadian and local governments who have hosted our Headquarters for so many years now.

“ICAO is very grateful to Canada and the local Quebec and Montréal governments for their continuing efforts to facilitate the work of our organisation and its diplomatic missions. Montréal is the third most influential aerospace metropolis in the world and has served as a natural home to ICAO for well over 60 years.”

Qatar is currently attempting to extend its influence on all fronts, having secured the forthcoming 2022 football World Cup for which it will construct nine of the most modern stadiums ever conceived. The country is the richest in the world per capita with the highest rate of literacy in the Arab world and hosts the influential Al Jazeera media network. Currently the Middle Eastern regional headquarters for the ICAO is situated in Egypt but it may well be that the Qatari’s have their eye at least on heading up the UN organisation’s affairs in the region at some future point.

News of the withdrawal of the Qatari bid had been warmly welcomed by transport workers groups who have a history of criticising employment conditions in the region. Qatari nationals only make up about 20% of the resident population at any time with the balance mostly immigrant workers. This has also meant only about 25% of the overall population at any one time are women.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has been particularly damning about conditions of employment for immigrant workers with president Paddy Crumlin obviously feeling the issue had influenced the decision. Commenting on news of the bid withdrawal, he said:

“This is great news. Democracy, common sense and a respect for workers’ rights have triumphed. Qatar has to change. The outrage that their plan met with proves that. Trade unions can feel glad that they helped doom this outrageous attempt to snatch this institution. It proves that there are some things that money just can’t buy.”

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has been particularly outspoken on the subject of the World Cup bid and general secretary Sharan Burrow outlined why labour organisations were so against the Arab state, saying:

“Foreigners in Qatar have virtually no rights, and can end up trapped there with no escape. Moving the ICAO to Qatar would have been a grave mistake. Fortunately, the world of civil aviation has seen sense on this issue.”

It was announced today (June 4) by the the International Air Transport Association (IATA)  that Qatar Airways will host the 70th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit. The event will draw the top leadership of the air transport industry to Doha in the State of Qatar from 1–3 June 2014.

Photo: Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird (seated, left) signs the new ICAO Supplementary Agreement on behalf of the Canadian Government while ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin (seated, right) signs on behalf of ICAO. Also present on the occasion are ICAO Council President Roberto Kobeh González (centre) Quebec International Relations, La Francophonie and External Trade Minister Jean-Francois Lisée (right) and Montréal Mayor Michael Applebaum (left).