In the past there have been hundreds of reports of shortfalls in handling dangerous goods aboard flights in India. In some of the recent incidents, IndiGo flight en route to Bengaluru from Thiruvananthapuram witnessed tense moments after smoke and sparks emerged from a laptop bag kept in the passenger cabin, reportedly after catching fire, while the plane was still mid-air.
In another incident, Air India’s licence to carry dangerous goods was suspended by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for 15 days in April after lapses were found during an audit by the aviation regulator at the airline’s Indira Gandhi International Airport cargo facility.
Despite these incidents, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has still not issued an order to train stakeholders involved in the handling of dangerous goods as per the new competency-based training and assessment (CBTA).
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recently directed all aviation regulators to discontinue the present system of handling dangerous goods by December 31, 2022, and switch to a new CBTA approach from January 1, 2023.
The ICAO had developed a competency-based approach to training in handling of dangerous goods in September 2019.
As per this, stakeholders, including airline crew, ground service providers, cargo agents, and freight forwarders have to be trained and their competency assessed at regular intervals.
The baggage or cargo often contains hazardous materials like lithium batteries, dry ice, drain cleaners, matches, aerosols, etc. Therefore, it must be ensured that individuals across the supply chain who prepare, offer, accept, and handle these goods are properly trained in their handling.
The transportation of lithium batteries and other radioactive materials often does not meet the regulatory requirements, and this could lead to disaster, an airline source said. The present system does not ensure competency of personnel handling dangerous goods, as certificates are often used only for audit compliance. But the new system ensures the competency of the staff through rigorous training and reassessment at regular intervals.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently made it mandatory that all personnel involved in air transportation must receive in-depth training according to their job functions and responsibilities.
As per Biji Eapen, National President, IATA Agents Association of India the Ministry of Civil Aviation has recently formed a committee to look into the issue. Soon the committee will come up with its guidelines for switching to the new system. As of now, there are only 19 training institutions approved by the DGCA in India including one in Kerala – Speedwings Aviation Academy, which is the lone IATA approved CBTA certified centre in the country to provide training at 10 levels (functions).