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EUROCONTROL workshop identifies legal liability risks and responsibilities in ATM

A fully harmonised regulatory regime for European air navigation service providers and regulators is vital for safe, adequate and cost-effective provision of air traffic management, according to participants at the 2nd Workshop on Responsibility and Liability in the Air Traffic Management (ATM) Domain, held at EUROCONTROL’s Headquarters.

“Air traffic management is a safety-critical activity. There could, under certain circumstances, be both responsibility and liability for various events. Individuals and organisations have to be well aware of this and take sensible precautions,” observed David McMillan, Director General of EUROCONTROL

The workshop – which focused on insurance; cross-border provision of air navigation services; trends and developments in air traffic management -underlined that as a first step, common operational rules must be created.

In the field of insurance, aircraft values are climbing rapidly; liability awards around the world are steadily increasing and will continue to do so, especially if US jurisdiction comes into play. To ensure that the level of cover is both appropriate and cost-effective, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) should quantify risk, use risk management systems, benchmark against other ANSPs and assess liability exposure. Possible joint initiatives of ANSPs in this domain were explored at the workshop, such as the creation of captives or the adoption of a joint pan-European insurance policy.

Regarding the provision of cross-border services, the workshop’s objective was to clarify the legal basis for this kind of cooperation (ICAO Chicago Convention, Annex 11, and/or the Regulation (EC) No 550/2004 on Service Provision). The workshop identified practical solutions for the allocation of liabilities between parties, looking at the application of operational rules in a cross-border environment.

New trends and developments affecting the ATM domain were also explored from a legal perspective, including taking into account potential risks generated by the use of new technologies and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Enhanced civil-military cooperation, the impact of stronger environmental awareness and the creation of borderless blocks of airspace (FABs) also came under scrutiny.

The participants agreed on the need to harmonise civil liabilities rules in the ATM domain in Europe. The importance of creating a ‘Just Culture’ was also emphasised. EUROCONTROL’s speakers insisted on the need for a Europe-wide drive for meaningful dialogue between safety experts and State prosecutors. While recognising that ATM remains a public function, participants agreed that States should endeavour to develop the Single European Sky in such a way so as to recognise civil/military aspects and meet the expectations of service providers.

Over 180 people of 40 different nationalities attended the workshop. They represented States, Air Navigation Service Providers, legislators and regulatory experts, major law firms, insurance companies, academics, industries and other interested parties.