SACAA: Increased tourist arrivals heightens SA's terror attack risk

2016-09-15 15:45 - Ra-ees Moerat
Post a comment 0

Cape Town - Over the years, threats facing civil aviation security have changed dramatically. As a result, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) is calling on all role-players to collaborate in order to be a step ahead of those behind terror attacks. 

The head of the South African Civil Aviation Authority, Ms Poppy Khoza addresses the challenges faced by the organisation in maintaining the safety of air passengers during the inaugural annual aviation security currently underway at Kempton Park.

Khoza says, “The challenge in countering aviation security in recent years is that perpetrators have become more sophisticated in their approach and this has necessitated a refined approach from aviation security specialists. Terror tactics have evolved and we cannot rely on old methods to counter new and emerging threats. We ought to collaborate, coordinate and communicate to better equip ourselves to save the lives of many innocent people."

Khoza, who is also the Chairperson of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Aviation Security Panel, said that those who are responsible for aviation security should educate themselves on the emerging trends on terror attack strategies, which now includes cyber and insider threats, amongst others. 

She says, “The aviation security fraternity cannot overlook the implications of the theft of information and intelligence, which could find its way into the hands of those who would want to cause mayhem. The more we try to innovate, the higher the risks we attract. This means that risk assessment ought to be continuous and mitigated appropriately as those with ill intentions are watching every move to identify gaps they can exploit.” 

SA a terror target?

 The first quarter of the year has seen an exceptionally strong rebound in tourist arrivals to the country, with an estimated 18.7% growth in arrivals for the first three months of 2016, compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Although the increase in arrivals is great for economic growth, it creates the ideal scenario for terror attacks.

SEE: Tourist arrivals to SA increase by 18.7%

“We have noted an increase in security incidents in the latter part of 2015, notably the Brussels Airport and the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. The bigger the airport or aircraft capacity, the higher the risk. Our infrastructure and technological innovation must always be designed with this reality in mind, as mass target is the aim for terrorists.” says Khoza.

In June the US issued a terrorism alert to its citizens in South Africa.  It warned the US Government had "received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town." At the time the UK and Australia both updated their travel alerts following the US's issuing of the terror alert. 

ALSO SEE: US Terror Alert: Security increased across SA malls

South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) noted at time the alleged terrorist threats and saying it would "continue to monitor the situation". 

READ MORE: SACAA 'monitoring security measures' following US terror alert

Keeping this in mind, Khoza adresses the impact of how the evolution of airports into shopping malls affects aviation security...

“This means that non-aviation employees are not selected and screened as carefully as travellers and those who work in the aviation industry. Terror syndicates are gradually moving in to take advantage of this weakness. Moreover, we no longer have a single description of who the terrorist is; it can be anyone including the employees we trust."

'No longer have a single description of who the terrorist is'

Additionally, role players agreed they plan on exploring new and emerging threats in civil aviation security and counter measures that could possibly be implemented such as, behaviour detection and the profile of the terrorist.

“Whilst South Africa’s security systems and procedures continue to be endorsed as world-class; we can never afford to be complacent, and must therefore use gatherings such as this to remind ourselves of our joined responsibility to safeguard the lives of those that are involved in air travel. After all, no country or operator is immune to possible security breaches or can claim to have a 100% fool-proof security system,” Khoza asserted. 

What to read next on Traveller24?

Can CITES Cope with the Illegal Wildlife Trade?

PICS: Munich ramps up Oktoberfest security after summer terror attacks

Swellendam: The Overberg's unexpected adventure hub