Interception of aircraft, no-fly zones among changes to Guyana’s aviation law


By Neil Marks


Guyana’s 65-seat legislature late Friday night agreed to sweeping changes to the law governing aviation in the country, saying these are needed for national security and public safety.

Among the changes to the law is for the authorities to be able to intercept aircraft flying illegally over Guyana’s territory and for there to be “no fly zones” to restrict or prohibit aircraft of other countries from flying over certain areas.

“I know some of us may say, ‘Well, we’re not there yet,’ but we’re looking into the future and we have to be able to get those (provisions) in place,” said Juan Edghill, the minister who oversees the aviation sector.

He made no references to any country or situation, but there have been brazen moves on the western front, with Venezuela growing more and more pompous in its claim to two thirds of Guyanese territory – shifting from rhetoric to a referendum, and then last month a law seeking to annex the Essequibo region. The Guyana/Venezuela border line was drawn in accordance with a legally binding arbitral award of 1899 and the World Court last December ruled that the boundary line should not be altered unless it determines otherwise in the border case before it.

Guyana has been beefing up defense cooperation with its allies, including the United States. Just Thursday, two U.S. Navy aircraft, F/A-18F Super Hornets, flew over Georgetown in what the U.S. Embassy said was part of “routine security operation” that coordinated and approved by the Guyana Army.

All 16 amendments Edghill proposed to the 2018 aviation law were detailed in the new Civil Aviation Amendment Bill 2024 and passed by the National Assembly two hours before midnight. He gained the full support of the opposition in a rare show of unity in a House usually vehemently opposed to each other.

President Irfaan Ali is expected to sign the changes into law soon and Edghill will outline all the regulations in detail as early as next week.

So, what does the new Bill say?

The Bill states “The pilot-in-command of any aircraft, when in flight over the territory of Guyana, shall comply with any marshalling signal, interception order or maneuver” as directed by Guyanese authorities.

These orders would be in accordance with the Chicago Convention, which is international agreement that established the rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and details regarding international air travel. Compliance with the Convention is managed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Further, the new Bill states that Guyana would reserve the right to restrict or prohibit an aircraft of other State from flying over certain areas of its territory.

“I’m sure all of us know there what is called restricted or no fly zones – you can’t fly within a certain distance of the (U.S.) White House, you can’t fly within a certain distance of the Pentagon. And these are all outlined, and everybody ought to know. So that Guyana (with the new law) would also be in a position to issue those instructions,” Edghill stated.

Anyone who breaches the interception orders could be fined $5 million or be jailed for five years.

Where there is failure to comply and the matter goes to court, the Bill makes provision for the authorities to accept the defense, once it could be clearly established, that the pilot-in-command “believed on reasonable grounds that compliance with the marshalling signal, interception order or manoeuvre would be more likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft or of persons on board the aircraft than would a failure to comply with the marshalling signal, interception order or manoeuvre.”

The changes to the 2018 legislation are among measures Guyana is taking ahead of an upcoming audit by ICAO and civil aviation authorities are hoping for a good grade.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.