Following is the speech by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, at opening ceremony of the 43rd Annual Conference of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations (IFATCA) today (March 22) (English only):
Marc, Albert, Andrew, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here at the 43rd Annual Conference of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations. First of all, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you, particularly to those who have travelled a long way to Hong Kong. We are honoured to host the biggest IFATCA Conference ever held in the Asia Pacific region with over 70 participating members of the federation. For that, I would like to thank IFATCA for choosing Hong Kong as the venue; the Civil Aviation Department and the Hong Kong Air Traffic Control Association for putting together such a prestigious international event.
The aviation business is an exciting and dynamic industry. It plays a key role in driving the global economic development and facilitating communication across the world. As one of the busiest aviation hubs in the world, the Hong Kong International Airport now handles close to 200,000 aircraft movements annually and processes over 34 million passengers and 2.6 million tonnes of cargo each year. The control tower at Chek Lap Kok steers some 90,000 aircraft overflying Hong Kong each year, through our sophisticated and professional ATC services. This is no mean achievement and I am proud of having such a highly professional ATC team to make all this possible.
Looking ahead, as more airports open in different parts of the world, and airlines flying to more destinations to meet increasing demands of the travelling public, I envisage air traffic worldwide to grow in leaps and bounds. As air travel continues to grow, airspace and airport congestion problems are becoming more acute. All these call for more sophisticated, efficient and well-coordinated ATC services worldwide. Answers to these challenges lie in enhancing the reliability of ATC hardware and software, harmonising ATC rules and protocols, maintaining a vigilant oversight of ATC standards, and investing in human resources to ensure that ATC professionals are well-trained to meet the highest standards.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a tall order for all of us. An order which allows absolutely no room for compromise in the standard of air safety that we owe to the travelling public. As the Secretary responsible for aviation, I am pleased to see that IFATCA and its members are holding fast to this common vision. I am sure that today's conference will provide a useful platform for ATC professionals from all over the world to share experience and insights and foster closer cooperation.
I wish all of you a very fruitful and rewarding conference. For delegates from overseas, I wish you a pleasant and enjoyable stay in Hong Kong. As the Secretary also responsible for tourism, I hope you will be able to find time to do some shopping and sightseeing.
Ends/Monday, March 22, 2004