Officials of the Estate Police Association (EPA) are concerned that deficiences highlighted in an interim security audit by the T&T Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) could result in the country's two international airports being downgraded. They claim the Piarco International and ANR Robinson Airports could slide from Category 1 to 2, for failing to meet standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
EPA's second vice-president Emmanuel Henry said the TTCAA has to ensure the standards of ICAO are carried out. ICAO has the power to downgrade the airports. Henry blamed a chronic shortage of security officers and a breakdown in wage negotiations for the problems.
Yesterday, in response to the EPA's claims, the AATT announced that issues raised in the security audit will be dealt with in a comprehensive plan. "The details emanating from such reports seek to identify any gap that may exist and make recommendations to plug such gaps," the AATT explained.
Hadeed-ignorance of the highest order
TTCAA director-general, Ramesh Lutchmedial, refused to comment on the issue, saying it was sensitive and a matter he "could not put out in the public domain". However, AATT chairman, Gerald Hadeed, refuted the EPA's allegations. He said the AATT and TTCAA have been complying with ICAO standards and he denounced the group's claims as "ignorance of the highest order".
Hadeed said the country's airports will never be downgraded. He said since receiving the findings of the audit three weeks ago, the AATT has implemented a 29-page corrective-action plan. "Our board realises how important security is. From the corrective-action plan we have put in place, we do take this very seriously."
Hadeed said the issues raised in the audit were minor and related to training and non-functional airport equipment.
Maharaj-EPA playing politics
Transport Minister Devant Maharaj accused the EPA of playing politics because of their current impasse with the AATT board. "It's a raw, naked political agenda," he declared. Maharaj said the AATT's is working feverishly to ensure that the airports will never be downgraded. He added: "You don't downgrade an airport just so. If that is the case, hundreds and millions of airports all over the world will shut down."
Audit report shows:
The audit report, dated February 27, 2012, showed 13 areas, which need improvement:
• International passenger screening checkpoints not adequately staffed.
• Screening personnel appeared fatigued, having worked the night shift into the morning, resulting in incompetencies in the application of procedures and processes.
• AATT has not established policies and procedures for handling suspect or unattended baggage.
• No explosive-trace detection or other advanced screening technologies to support current conventional screening technologies used at passenger- and cabin-screening checkpoints, to enhance detection capabilities.
• No specialised equipment, such as an explosives-containment chamber, or disposal mechanisms, or portable explosive-trace detection capabilities for dealing with suspect improvised explosive device in baggage, cargo, mail or other unattended articles at the airport.
• No contingency plan to deal with acts of unlawful interference at the airport.
• Failure to conduct table-top, partial or full-scale exercises, relating to an act of unlawful interference.
• At the departure level, where access is controlled by keypads and magnetic access cards, lock and key system not properly functioning.
• Doors 13 and 14 at boarding gates were found opened and unattended while no aircraft operation was taking place.
• Auditors were able to gain entry into the sterile area from airside via doors on the jet-bridge, which were left unlocked and unattended after aircraft operations had ceased.
• One door, which secures the jet-bridge from unauthorised access from the airside, had a broken lock, while another was found unsecured and unattended.
• A vehicle and its occupants were allowed access to airside through main airside access control gate without being searched or screened.
• Lighting fixtures on the perimeter fencing located north-east of the North Terminal Building and east of the South Terminal not functioning.
• The AATT had not established and identified a designated employee-screening checkpoint.
• No records to indicate increase in patrols during the night and no foot patrol of the airside was observed.
• No records to indicate foot patrols were carried out.
• Several cameras in the CCTV surveillance system were non-functional.
• Images in a number of cameras were hindered by the installation of articles in the atrium for Carnival.
• The AATT internal report showed no records of action being taken to address the deficiencies identified.
At ANR Robinson Airport:
• Several areas along the chain-link fence had deteriorated, which was not reflected in the patrol log.
• Holes were observed in the fence.
• Perimeter fence in the vicinity of Customs and Excise and the public food court showed evidence of climbing and that items may have been removed or introduced into the restricted area.
• Patrol reports not documented and recorded.
• The existing height of the fence needs to be increased or a secondary fence installed due to the close proximity of public facilities and activities.