On the 12th December, 2012, the Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act 2012 (the "Amendment Act") received the assent of Parliament. To date, no appointed day notice has been published in the Gazette.

The long title of the Amendment Act provides that the purpose of the amendment is to "establish measures for the organization and designated responsibilities within The Bahamas for the safeguarding of passengers, crew, ground personnel and the general public against acts of unlawful interference with civil aviation and for connected matters". The Amendment Act seeks to achieve this by inserting into the principal Act a new Part VIA which addresses security issues.

Under this new Part VIA, the Director of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Department ("BCAD") is designated as the appropriate authority for civil aviation in accordance with the requirements of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation (the "Chicago Convention"). It also provides that the Director has all of the responsibilities specified in Annex 17 of that Convention.

Among the protocols that will be required once the Amendment Act comes into force is the entering into of a memorandum of agreement with the Royal Bahamas Police Force regarding threat and risk assessments at airports.

The Amendment Act states that the Director is tasked with the responsibility of drafting the National Civil Aviation Security Programme ("NCASP") along with the Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Office of the Attorney General, the Customs Department, The Department of immigration, the Post Office Department and any other organization and person the Director deems appropriate.

Airport aviation security inspectors may be appointed by the Director to assist in fulfilling regulatory oversight requirements. These inspectors will have access to all aerodromes and aircrafts in The Bahamas in accordance with procedure specified in the NCASP and the National Civil Aviation Security Quality Control Programme ("NCASQCP"). They will also have the authority to directly interview any person within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas who may have information applicable to aviation security. The Amendment Act provides that it is an offence for a person to impede, hinder, delay or otherwise interfere with an aviation security inspection or to knowingly provide false or misleading information to these persons.

The Amendment Act gives the Director the authority to amend the NCASP from time to time as necessary and provides that such amendment will be effective upon receipt of its notification and may apply to aerodrome operations, aircraft operations and all other entities regulated under the NCASP.

In April 2012, the Civil Aviation (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012 (the "Amendment Regulations") were published. The Amendment Regulations inserted into the Civil Aviation (Safety) Regulations a new Schedule 21 which addresses aerodrome certification and operations. This new Schedule applies to:

(i) Airports that serve scheduled and unscheduled air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats;

(ii) Airports that serve scheduled air carrier operation in aircraft with more than 9 seats but less than 31 seats; and

(iii) Any other aerodrome, where the Minister is of the opinion that it is in the public interest for that aerodrome to meet the requirements necessary for the issuance of an airport certificate.

Airport certification is not required for aerodromes where aircraft passenger operations are conducted only because the airport has been designated as an alternate airport.

No international aerodrome serving scheduled and unscheduled air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats and no international aerodrome serving scheduled air carrier operation in aircraft with more than 9 seats but less than 31 seats may operate without certification. Additionally, where the Minister responsible for civil aviation is of the opinion that it is in the public interest for any other aerodrome to be certified, such airport must receive certification. Exempted aerodromes are however not required to have airport certification.

The certification and regulation of aerodromes falls under the purview of BCAD and it is the BCAD which may impose restrictions on any aerodrome and has authority to limit or totally prohibit the use of any aircraft that does not meet its requirements.

The Amendment Regulations seek to codify industry best practices in The Bahamas and Schedule 21, in addition to outlining the certification process for aerodromes, addresses: (i) the preparation of aerodrome manuals; (ii) the obligations of aerodrome operators; and (iii) the requirements of aerodrome designs and operations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.