AVSEC WORLD 2016: All smiles in Kuala Lumpur between ICAO, IATA and ACI

Posted: 25 October 2016 | Roy Manuell | No comments yet

International Airport Review reports live from the opening day of AVSEC WORLD 2016, Kuala Lumpur where the world’s aviation elite have gathered to discuss a collaborative approach to aviation security…

Reporting live from AVSEC WORLD 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, International Airport Review presents a roundup of the opening day from the annual security conference’s 25th year.

In the grandiose splendour of the Mandarin Oriental, firmly tucked inside the bustling, business centre of the Malaysian Capital and a stone’s throw from the iconic Petronas Towers, AVSEC WORLD 2016 could not be held in a more fitting nation.

Beneath the glittering chandeliers of the Mandarin Orient, the Minister for Transport, Malaysia YB Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong La begins by welcoming us to the event.

As alluded to, there is no more relevant a host than Malaysia. A beacon and model for the continent in terms of the healthy expansion of its aviation sector, Sri Liow Tiong La is visibly delighted in describing his nation’s close proximity with ICAO as a working partner and thus his opening speech introduces Malaysia as a preceding example for the weight of illustrious speakers from Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI to Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of IATA as they go on to assert the fundamental importance of a global, collective imperative to collaborate in their opening remarks in order to tackle the impending and ominous security issues facing the aviation sector.

AVSEC WORLD 2016: All smiles in Kuala Lumpur between ICAO, IATA and ACI

AVSEC’s very existential importance is emphatically reiterated from the outset, articulated by ICAO’s Secretary General Fang Liu in her opening remark. “A forum for discussion” she describes the occasion and the very reason for why the four hundred strong mix of delegate, exhibitor and speaker have gathered here in beautiful Kuala Lumpur; the importance of a collaborative approach made explicit from the very beginning. The very fact that the senior members of ICAO, ACI and IATA file up to address the congregation in sequence is symbolically important and strengthens the obvious purpose of AVSEC 2016: a stress on a shared discussion.

Each of the seven illustrious, opening speakers (also including Peter Neffenger of the TSA and Henrik Hololei representing the European Commission) speaks with a common message as if each speech were written as a collective while importantly approaching the issue of global security threats from their respective different perspectives.

AVSEC 2016’s opening message was perhaps best articulated by the Chief Financial Officer for Malaysian Airlines, Omar Siddiq.
Siddiq describes the strong passenger growth his nation is facing and its significant contribution to his nation’s GDP, underlining the self-explanatory and unequivocal economic benefits of the aviation industry, particularly with regard to socio-economic development.
However, in order to mitigate the risks we face with rising passenger growth as an unstoppable global phenomenon, the burden we all face must too be shared as the issue is by definition of a global nature.

“Be it public or private sector, government or agency we must work together,” he concludes… a poignant note from which to enter the three-day event.

AVSEC WORLD 2016: All smiles in Kuala Lumpur between ICAO, IATA and ACI

Angela Gittens, Director General ACI then turns our eye toward the future, reflecting upon some of the challenges that the global industry will face in the coming years, as she fires several thought-provoking questions into the packed ballroom.

“With passenger numbers expected to double by 2029, will government spending rise to match? Will the aviation industry continue to swallow the cost?”
Information must be shared, she goes onto stress.

“We must begin to take a common sense approach to security. A one-size-fits-all policy simply won’t work.”

“Collaboration,” – that word crops up again as Fang Liu calls for governments and states to work with ICAO in light of the historic progress made at their 39th Assembly. The lineup assembled by AVSEC here in Malaysia offers representation from airline, airport, government and agency alike – be it European, Asian or from the supranational world institutions. Each section of the industry is given a voice on the Mandarin Oriental stage.

Whether or not their words are empty rhetoric or not will be proved over the next twelve months and some members of the audience had their doubts as I approached them after the speeches.
However, if we are to accept the conviction with which all seven opening speakers introduced the event, AVSEC WORLD has never been more fitting a title for the conference in a nation that has seemingly embraced the collaborative “common sense” imperative we now face with respect to aviation security.

The tragic reality of the events in Brussels, Istanbul and Paris were inevitably quoted and as IATA’s Alexandre de Juniac stated, “the conversation we are having here in Malaysia is very different to the one we had in Dublin last year”. Cyber security may further define discussion over the next few days and was heavily referenced throughout, as was radicalisation, undeniably presenting a problem that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. As noted by each speaker, there are threats that no one body has a definitive answer to and threats that are evolving at an exponential rate. What we must do now was together – crucially together – evolve at a faster rate.

The perspectival diversity yet rhetorical unity of the speakers on the stage at the opening of AVSEC WORLD 2016 was therefore no coincidence. Much like the equality of representation we see in Malaysia, AVSEC 2016’s fundamental message was that for the ever-evolving threats that passenger, airline, airport and state alike faces, solutions will only be found following a collaborative endeavour. We all have the same objective; it’s time each slice of the industry engages in open discussion in order to work together to ensure safety and security for air travel around the world.

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