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Maldives Air Traffic Controllers Association Issues Statement Regarding Serious Safety Concerns

In a statement issued by The Maldives Air Traffic Controllers Association (MATCA) highlighted several issues within the Maldives' ATS management.



Maldives Air Traffic Controllers Association (MATCA)


The Maldives Air Traffic Controllers Association (MATCA) is a Maldivian organization of air traffic controllers dedicated to improving air navigation safety, efficiency, and regularity, as well as promoting and maintaining a high standard of knowledge and professional efficiency among air traffic controllers.


MATCA’s work includes identifying potential hazards in the work environment of Air Traffic Controllers and ATC systems, as well as protecting the safety of Air Traffic Controllers in the Maldives.


MATCA is also a member of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Association (IFATCA).


Statement:


According to the statement, MATCA identified several issues in the Maldives' ATS management which were brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities in 2019.


However, despite several attempts to discuss these issues with the Maldives Civil Aviation Authority (MCAA) and other relevant government entities; no significant steps have been taken to fix and remedy the situation to this day


The complaints were also sent to Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) through a petition signed by the ATCOs in October 2021.


In response, the meeting conducted by MACL with ATS management at the ATC building with Air Traffic Controllers was intervened by the Maldives Police Services (MPS) and Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF).


‘The ATC workers, who were striving to ensure their own safety and the safety of air navigation, were greatly stressed and distraught by this unexpected intervention.’ - MATCA

It is unclear who authorized military involvement in what was essentially a discussion between management and staff.


MATCA further highlighted that the situation deteriorated furthermore following the introduction of a new ATS structure, which hampered Male' Tower Unit's career advancement.


In response, ATCOs from Male' Tower Unit filed further grievances with the then Acting CEO and Human Resource Department of MACL, as well as the MCAA, in February 2022.


A separate petition was also submitted to the Maldivian Parliament in March 2022 due to the Acting CEO's and ATS management's contradictory responses to the issues in question, as well as other operational difficulties.


Desperate several attempts these issues are still left to be taken care by relevant authorities.


According to MATCA, earlier in April 2017 IFATCA conducted an unbiased appraisal at the request of MATCA which was forwarded to the MD of MACL, the GM of ATC, and the Director of ANS and Aerodromes of the MCAA.


The bullet points listed here provide some basic structure to the concerns relating to the oversight of air navigation operations, including IFATCA's preliminary conclusions on safety concerns.


  • Controller education and professional development- In 2021, most of the controllers' career growth was halted owing to the restructuring of the Air Traffic Services Department, and concerns have been made to several authorities as stated above.


  • Given the complexity of air traffic in the Maldivian airspace, the well-being of controllers is critical for safety. As quoted directly from the IFATCA findings:


  • relief manning appears ad hoc, not planned." - IFATCA


IFATCA deyermined that from a very brief overview of TMA/ Area and TWR; controller workload appears to spike in traffic peaks and individual controllers are working at the limits of Human Factor's capacity.


"There is no margin for controllers to allow for an adequate monitor of actions and traffic to ensure separation and safety. Many of the procedures seem distractive in nature, yet some served no purpose. Traffic growth numbers provided over the last 5 years do not appear to have been accompanied by any 'sector capacity analysis 'of all three streams.
Specifically, has it been examined that workload is within the capability of each controller under all traffic volumes and at periods where positions are combined? To be clear there is a breaking point in each system at a given workload and complexity. It would appear that controllers are exploring the boundaries of human performance with the complex coordination required and limited equipment options" - IFATCA

IFATCA strongly advocated MACL to conduct a Normal Operations Safety Survey (NOSS ICAO Doc 9910) as a matter of priority to create an open and transparent baseline of issues for management and staff to work cohesively to address issues.


Even though there is a high growing volume of traffic, a thorough audit of the ATC system at Velana International Airport has yet to be completed with the assistance of international experts (VIA).


VIA's air traffic controllers oversee the world's

largest seaplane operation, which includes a record number of traffic movements and IFR operations.


‘MATCA strongly believes that removing Air Navigation services from MACL and establishing an Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) as an autonomous body in collaboration with relevant international aviation organizations will ensure a focused strategy in pursuing the proper organizational structures and systems that are critical to the safety of aviation in the Maldives' continued. This entity should ideally be led by a technical expert who has previously served as the head of an ANSP.’ - MATCA

MATCA have urged the state, the Government, and aviation stakeholders to assess and satisfactorily mitigate the operational and safety concerns that have been identified as soon as possible given the heavy safety concerns involved.


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