THE POSTAL HISTORY OF ICAO

 

Annex 9 – Facilitation

 

Developed by ICAO, the International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) contained in the nineteen Technical Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also called Chicago Convention) are applied universally and produce a high degree of technical uniformity which has enabled international civil aviation to develop in a safe, orderly and efficient manner.

 

Facilitation is best described as the simplification of the formalities involved in moving an aircraft and its contents across international boundaries. The importance of international trade and air transport, including aviation and the related documentary requirements at national boundaries, had already been of concern in the inter-war period. Article 23(e) of the Covenant of the League of Nations (signed in 1919) required that each member make provision to secure and maintain freedom of communications and of transit and equitable treatment for the commerce of all Members of the League. The rapid growth in communications and transit, by land, sea and air, has led to expanding technical activities of the League regarding those issues; thus, the League created in 1921 its Organization for Communication and Transit. In order not to duplicate work with the International Commission on Air Navigation (ICAN), the above-mentioned Organization of the League restricted its efforts to surface transport and barriers to the free movement of persons, whereas the Convention Relating to the Regulation of Air Navigation (i.e. the 1919 Paris Convention) addressed the problems facing the international travel by air under its Annex H (titled Customs).

 

Several articles in the Chicago Convention signed in 1944 are directly devoted to the facilitation of air transport. For instance, Article 10 specifies that every aircraft entering the territory of another Contracting State must land and take off from airports designated by that State in order to comply with customs examinations. Article 11 provides that an aircraft entering or leaving a particular Contracting State must comply with the laws and regulations related to admission and departure thereof.  By Article 22, Contracting States have agreed to adopt all practicable measures to facilitate and expedite the navigation of aircraft between their territories, avoiding unnecessary delays to aircraft, crews, passengers, and cargo, specifically when applying laws relating to immigration, quarantine, and customs.

 

It is evident that an important element of meeting the world’s needs for air transport is to make air transport as easy as possible for the world to use. To this end, the Interim Council of PICAO established a Customs Sub-committee under the aegis of the Air Navigation Committee (ANC); it was transferred on 21 November 1945 to the Air Transport Committee (ATC) and changed its name to Sub-committee on Facilitation of International Air Transport (FAL); by decision of the Interim Council on 30 November 1945, the technical sub-committees were renamed Divisions.   

 

Annex 9 - Facilitation

The FAL Division met for the first time in Montreal from 24 January to 2 February 1946 and established a set of provisional standards designed to standardize procedures and minimize government documentary requirements for aircraft entering foreign territories. When ICAO replaced PICAO in April 1947, the Facilitation Division’s work continued. As directed by the First Assembly of ICAO (held in May 1947), the ICAO Secretariat prepared a draft set of International Standards and Recommended Practices on Facilitation taking into account the comments of the Contracting States on the existing FAL recommendations. This draft was submitted to the 1948 large-scale 2nd meeting of the FAL Division; the final report of this meeting set up recommendations for international standards which were adopted, with certain changes, by the Council of ICAO, as Annex 9 – Standards and Recommended Practices for the Facilitation of International Air Transport (later shortened to Facilitation) to the Chicago Convention, on 25 March 1949; they became effective on 1 September 1949, with an implementation date fixed at 1 March 1949. The regulations proposed in Annex 9 reconcile the two greatest necessities of simplification and standardization to the greatest possible extent; they meant definitive saving in time to the airline managements and money to the air transport operator. Annex 9 had eight appendices of standard forms to be used for entry and clearance of aircraft, crews, passengers and cargo.

 

The FAL Division established a practice of convening in different parts of the world. The third session of the FAL Division held in 1951 agreed at the outset that further experience should be gained by both governments and airline operators in the application of the present provisions of Annex 9 before any major change were made in the methods or techniques upon which they were based. The meeting ended with approving nine important recommendations for submission to the ICAO Council; the meeting also recommended the establishment of special FAL committees within certain regions which face particular conditions.

 

The 4th meeting of the FAL Division held in 1955 recommended 52 changes to the International Standards and Recommended Practices on Facilitation and made 17 other recommendations also designed to reduce red tape involved in border crossing. They include the adoption of a policy aimed at the early elimination of the Passenger Manifest and the later elimination of the embarkation/disembarkation card; the amendments will assist the operation of non-scheduled aircraft, for they simplify existing requirements for these aircraft to give notice of arrival in foreign countries and to receive prior permission for their flights. The meeting arrived at a definition of the term tourist and took action to simplify the problems of visas and to re-define the terms of free airport and free zone.

 

The growing interest in facilitation and increasing awareness of its importance were reflected in the unusual large attendance at the 5th Session of the Facilitation Division, which was held at the FAO Headquarters in Rome in 1959. It is to be noted that 45 Contracting States had notified the Organization of the extent to which they were implementing the provisions of the third edition of Annex 9, twice as many as had given such notification in regard to the second edition of Annex 9 before the Fourth Session of the FAL Division. The meeting made 55 recommendations for amendment of Annex 9 (A-type), the most important being for the elimination of the Passenger Manifest and of visas for tourists and other temporary visitors, for the simplification of the General Declaration, for the acceptance by Sates of an oral baggage declaration, for the elimination of outbound baggage inspection, for the abolition of tax clearance certificates, for the clearance of inbound cargo on a sampling or selective basis, and for the introduction of provisions designed to speed the flow of all types of traffic through airports and to provide the maximum facilitation for passengers transferring, or cargo trans-shipped, from one flight to another at the same or another airport in a State. The Division made also twelve other recommendations on matters outside the present scope of Annex 9 (B-type).

 

Recommendations which resulted in more nations abolishing visa requirements for temporary visitors and easing other border formalities were made at the 6th Session of the Facilitation Division held in 1963. The recommendation of chief significance to air passengers is one which aims at encouraging states to waive visa requirements for travellers entering their territories for not more than a tree-month stay for legitimate non-immigration purposes. The high speed of the large passenger jet aircraft spurred the Division to renew its efforts to cut down the ground time of a journey. After consideration by the ATC and the Council, a major rearrangement of Annex 9 was recommended, including the introduction of a new chapter on facilities and services for traffic and international airports.

 

Attendance at the 7th Session of the FAL Division in 1968 reached a record; the meeting  discussed in detail the facilitation problems expected to arise at many international airports within the following years as a result of continually increasing traffic and the introduction of high-capacity and supersonic aircraft. The Division made 22 recommendations for amendments to Annex 9, and 21 which did not affect this Annex.

 

The 8th Session of the FAL Division met in 1973 and adopted 34 A-type recommendations concerning amendments to Annex 9 and 19 B-type recommendations to further ease and develop international air transport, made necessary by the immense upsurge of air travellers, baggage and freight.

 

Experts in customs, immigration, airport management and airlines attended in 1979 the 9th Session of the FAL Division to seek ways and means of speeding the flow of passengers, baggage and freight at airports. This Session took place against a backdrop of longer lines before immigration and customs officers as well as delays at congested airports for baggage delivery. There were also the haunting prospects for those involved in coping with the growing volume of traffic due to cheaper fares and more scheduled and charter flights. The Division adopted 69 A-type recommendations concerning amendments to Annex 9 and 13 B-type recommendations not affecting this Annex.

 

The 10th Session of the FAL Division (FAL/10) made in 1988 a complete review of Annex 9 adopting 90 recommendations for amendments and 15 recommendations on matters not involving amendments. In addition to addressing the acute problem of traffic growth, the Division reviewed the provisions of Annex 9 concerning aviation security for harmonization with those of Annex 17 (titled Security: Safeguarding International Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference).

 

In keeping with its theme “Implementation, co-operation and automation – keys to improve facilitation into the 21st century”, the 11th Session of the FAL Division (FAL/11) adopted in 1995 over 100 recommendations, including proposals for a number of new and revised SARPSs in Annex 9 to reflect modern concepts in the clearance of aircraft, cargo and passengers. Among the matters dealt, the meeting considered aircraft disinfection, public health, asylum seekers and persons with disabilities. This meeting also recommended the establishment of a Facilitation Panel, which was approved in 1995 by the Air Transport Committee and the ICAO Council and met for the first time in Montreal from 22 to 26 September 1997.

 

Under the theme “Managing security challenges to facilitate air transport operations”, the 12th Session of the FAL Division (FAL/12) ended in 2004 with a number of recommendations aimed at smoother passage of travellers through airport controls, heightened aviation security and added protection against identity theft.  A key recommendation called the Member States to further implement machine readable passports and incorporate biometrics for further strengthening their travel documents. Other recommendations included a standardized approach to advance passenger information systems, as were numerous updates to  provisions related to travel document security, air crew identity, preventing travel document fraud and handling inadmissible persons.

 

 

 

 

Attendance

 

 Dates

Place

 Delegates

Advisers

Observers

Contracting States

Non-contracting

States

International Organizations

1st

24 January to 2 February 1946

Montreal

18 Participating States

2nd

17 May to 1 June 1948

Geneva

N/A

21

4

7

3rd

21 November to 7 December 1951

Buenos Aires

124

22

2

6

4th

10 to 24 October 1955

Manila

162

23

-

4

5th

1 to 18 December 1959

Rome

178

34

3

8

6th

19 March to 6 April 1963

Mexico City

177

41

2

9

7th

14 to 30 May 1968

Montreal

302

63

-

11

8th

6 to 22 March 1973

Dubrovnik

270

55

-

8

9th

18 April to 4 May 1979

Montreal

343

79

1

9

10th

7 to 23 September 1988

Montreal

363

66

1

10

11th

18 to 27 April 1995

Montreal

408

89

-

10

12th

22 March to 1 April 2004

Cairo

474

87

19 Observer Delegations

 

ICAO Doc 9303

The rapid growth of international air passenger traffic prompted the 7th Session of the Facilitation Division in 1968 to consider proposals for the introduction of a machine-readable passport or passport card that might eventually replace the conventional passport and accelerate clearance through passport controls; ICAO established the Panel on Passport Cards in November 1968, which was tasked with developing recommendations for a standardized passport book or card that would be machine readable, thus facilitating the clearance of passengers through passport controls; the Panel met for the first time in Montreal from 16 to 20 June 1969. As a result of the Panel’s work, the technical specifications and guidance material for Machine Readable Passports (MRP) were published by ICAO in 1980 in the first edition of the document titled A Passport with Machine Readable Capability (Doc 9303); it became the basis for the initial issue of machine-readable passports. A working group of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) further developed the specifications which were adopted in 1985 as an ISO Standard.

 

In 1984, ICAO established the Technical Advisory Group on Machine-Readable Travel Documents (TAG/MRTD), which held its first meeting in Montreal from 16 to 20 June 1986. The group is comprised mainly of government officials who specialize in border controls and specifically the issuance of passports and other travel documents. The TAG/MRTD had an initial mandate of taking over the activities of the Panel on Passport Cards. Subsequently, the group’s mandate was expanded to include machine-readable visas and cards. The complexity and volume of work increased over the years to the point where working groups had to be established by ICAO, the ongoing contribution of which remains essential to the continuing success of the MRTD Programme. Considerable progress has been made with the development of MRTD’s standards and specifications, including their implementation for improved facilitation and international security. The specifications set out in ICAO Doc 9303 have been expanded from machine readable passports to include all MRTD’s: passports and passport cards, visas and official identity documents, and now comprises several comprehensive parts that elaborate on the state-of-the-art technical specifications, including biometric travel documents. The liaison mechanism with ISO has been successfully applied to the endorsement of specifications for travel documents.

 

The ICAO facilitation programme is designed not only to liberalize government requirements in connection with the movements of persons or cargoes by air across national boundaries, but also to help speed up clearance formalities to correspond with the technical progress of transportation. Considerable savings in time and documentation, and increased security in air travel have come as a result of ICAO’s work in the field of facilitation. The continuous growth in air traffic makes it necessary for airport administrations and airlines to adapt their related facilities at regular intervals.

 

Third Session of the Facilitation (FAL) Division.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 21 November to 7 December 1951.

Held in the Facultad de Derecho y Ciencas Sociales of the University.

 

Service Cover (postmarked on 17 March 1954) of the Council of Europe sent to Mr. R.J. Moulton (Chief, Facilitation Branch at ICAO), used for the announcement of the Conference on Co-ordination of Air Transport in Europe, held in Strasbourg, France from 21 April to 8 May 1954

 

 

 

 

Fourth Session of the Facilitation (FAL) Division and First Pacific Regional Air Navigation (RAN) Meeting.

Held in the Congress Building, Manila, Philippines, from 10 to 24 October 1955.

Originally, the Facilitation meeting was scheduled from Tuesday 4 October 1955 and the First Pacific Regional Air Navigation (RAN) Meeting from Tuesday 1 November 1955. These dates were later changed respectively to: Monday 10 October and Thursday 27 October, so that both meetings would be consecutive. That may have created some confusion and has resulted in several and different cancel dates found on the above covers, i.e. 5 October (i.e. before the actual opening of the Facilitation meeting), 20 October and 27 October.

 

Eighth Session of the Facilitation (FAL) Division.

Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, from 6 to 23 March 1973.

According to ICAO’s records, the meeting ended on 22 March.

 

Eleventh Session of the Facilitation Division (FAL/11).

Montreal, Canada, from 18 to 28 April 1995. According to ICAO’s records, the meeting ended on 27 April.

The cancel shows some of the elements surrounding ICAO’s efforts in the facilitation field to simplify and standardize handling and clearance procedures at airports.

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