Airspace coverage 'not just about sovereignty'

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo speaks during an interview at the Singapore Airshow in Singapore, on Feb 18, 2016.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo speaks during an interview at the Singapore Airshow in Singapore, on Feb 18, 2016.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Sovereignty is not a factor when it comes to carving up airspace.

More important are technical and operational capabilities, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo yesterday.

She was commenting on recent moves by Indonesia to reclaim parts of its airspace currently managed by Singapore air traffic controllers.

The Republic has overseen the affected areas in Riau - including the resort islands of Batam and Bintan - since 1946. This was when it was handed the responsibility by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organisation, which regulates global commercial aviation.

Mrs Teo said: "It is not unusual at all for flight information regions (airspace managed by a country) to cross national boundaries."

In fact, Indonesia's area of coverage overlaps with Timor Leste's territorial airspace, she noted.

"This is an issue that has nothing to do with sovereignty and everything to do with technical and operational requirements," she stressed.

Safety and efficiency are the priorities "that we should all be aligned and focused on", Mrs Teo said. "It is on this basis that we interact with our Indonesian counterparts... The Indonesians are very clear about where we are coming from and we will continue this conversation with them."

The matter came to light last September when Indonesian President Joko Widodo asked officials to improve their personnel and equipment, so the country can take over airspace management. The aim is to do so in three or four years, Indonesian media reported at the time.

Karamjit Kaur

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Airspace coverage 'not just about sovereignty''. Print Edition | Subscribe