After several consultations on providing a  conducive system for passengers using the Freetown international Airport during this peak period and beyond  , the Minister  of Transport and Aviation Mr Kabineh Kallon has held a one day working session on the 9th of December 2021 to put the joint strategies and  detailed plan for immediate action at  the  Freetown International Airport. The meeting also gave him the opportunity to speak to the airport Management and different Agencies on strict adherence to sound aviation best practices and put measures to address Government and passenger concerns on four strategic areas; Security and Access Control, NACOVERC procedures, integrity of staff and customs revenue generation.

The strategic government delegation included the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Deputy Chief Immigration Officer, NACOVERC Chief of Staff, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Head of non-tax National Revenue Authority, RSLAF, Ministry of Transport officials who met with Heads of operating agencies at the airport.

In his keynote address the minister of Transport and Aviation expressed his dissatisfaction over issues of extortion, syndicates aiding smuggling and pilfering, access control into sterile zones and  that these deficiencies spreads across every Agency. He further presented the grim picture in terms of NAVOVERC operations at the Airport. The Minister referred to these frequent incidents as negatives impacting the brand and country reputation in national and international platforms.

Speaking on the realignment of NACOVERC additional time required for the arriving passengers’ journey, due to the implementation of COVID measures, the minister emphasized on the need for increasing their staff strengths and removing iteration of data.

“We gained early plaudits for our NACOVERC models and we want to continue on that path, but efficiency is now needed to give harmonization of the measures that is required and becoming beneficial for all the parties involved. Our consultations revealed the need for practicable solutions to reduce time spent. For example portal information is still needed on arrival, travel history analysis requiring manual forms, online payment platforms are most times not working which leads to queuing for payment on Arrival and removing COVID payment tellers from the baggage reclaim hall to the terminal foyer. This will make room for passenger baggage formalities”.

The Minister added that we are witnessing the pandemic evolution with new variants followed by updated travel policies for entry requirements to states. This behooves NACOVERC in fixing all outstanding issues in their systems and operations for better service delivery and safeguarding public Health.

In his statement the Minister of Internal affairs Mr. Panda Noah shared his concerns over the security implications of bribery, extortion, and harassment which can have far reaching effect on the integrity of the airport system. He called on the airport Management to exhibit strong and total command in access control, duty roster of only key essential staff in the Arrival and departure Halls.

In his response the General Manager Airports Authority Mr. Jack DK Massaquoi spoke about the saturated arrival hall with more space capacity for the passenger given COVID measures.

“With pre-COVID traffic volume during peaks our Baggage reclaim in terms of throughput and Arrival hall in terms of surface space per passenger are amongst   the limiting components in airports operations”. Despite these challenges the General Manager assured the Minister and government dignitaries of his management’s commitment to have firstly provided additional cooling facilities and intensified access control measures in the Terminal Building. He intimated the meeting of the implementation of the Airport’s standard operating procedures and Airport byelaws whilst always reinforcing RSLAF and SLP landside mandate. Reassuring the minister, the General Manager maintained that he would bring his management along in monitoring the Terminal Building to enhance service delivery to meet the expectations of the traveling public.

The meeting progressed in categorizing every area of intervention from supervising agencies and their Airport heads of stations. These included immediate staff rotation of the existing workforce of major units, staff strengths and supplies to units that are under resourced, intensifying  access control protocols  with reviews on ID and pass systems,  joint monitoring and increase of CCTV coverage, implementation of the reviewed  Airport standard operating procedures and Airport byelaws , deployment of compliance officers  which will act as a searchlight to unravel  areas of security and safety interest with immediate information exchange and finally for the Airport to commence an Automation drive in Access control and other strategic areas .

The Minister concluded the day’s event with physical inspection of the Airport areas, guided with the established recommendations that come into effect immediately.