Go to main content
THB responds to issues on appointment of independent consultant for new air traffic management system
     In response to the media reports questioning the independence of the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) from the United Kingdom (U.K.) appointed by the Transport and Housing Bureau (THB) for assessing the new air traffic management system (ATMS) of the Civil Aviation Department (CAD), a spokesman for the THB responded today (February 14):
     The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Legislative Council urged the THB to consider engaging external and independent experts immediately to assess the safety and performance of the new ATMS in its Report No. 63A issued in June 2015.  To follow up with the PAC’s recommendation, the THB appointed the NATS in November 2015 for assessing the readiness of the new ATMS per se and the CAD and providing independent advice to the Secretary for Transport and Housing.
      The THB fully complied with the Government’s procurement procedures in appointing the NATS to ensure fairness, impartiality and efficiency in economic terms of the procurement process.  Generally speaking, for procurement of consultancy services with contract value of 1.43 million dollars and below (limit set at 2015), public officers of relevant departments at the appropriate rank are entitled to approve invitation of quotation from less than five consultancy firms with full justifications given (for example, due to tight schedule or lack of competition based on technical reasons).  Throughout the procurement process, the CAD had only provided professional inputs on the scope of services and technical requirements to the quotation document.  Upon the issuance of the quotation document, the remaining procurement procedures, including reviewing the quotation document, liaising with the relevant firm etc., were handled directly by the subject officers of the THB.  Furthermore, the contents of the quotation document and NATS’ response to the document had been reviewed carefully by the Aviation Consultant of the THB.  The quotation document has also specified that the service provider is not allowed to collude with any person in any manner in the tendering process.
     In response to PAC’s request for appointing independent consultant by the THB immediately, the THB was required to identify and appoint a suitable consultant for assessing the highly technical new ATMS within a very short period, which would serve as a reference point for the THB to consider the commissioning date of the system.  When appointing the NATS, the THB had taken into consideration the following factors:
(i)  The NATS is the leading Air Navigation Services Provider in the U.K., possessing profound professional knowledge and experience in air traffic control (ATC) systems and services.  It has provided services to clients around the world, which allows it to provide useful reference about the experience of transition of ATMS in different airports;
(ii)  The NATS had completed operational transition of two major ATC Centres in the U.K. before and hence has practical experience in this aspect;
(iii)  The NATS had conducted various consultancy studies for the aviation industry of Hong Kong in the past, with proven track records. NATS is familiar with Hong Kong’s unique ATC operational environment (including the complicated airspace in the region, runway capacity constraint etc.). These qualifies enable NATS to conduct an in-depth assessment of the new ATMS on short notice by the THB; and
(iv)  The NATS has set up a branch office in Hong Kong, which allows it to perform on-site observation of the new ATMS operations and assess ATC staff’s readiness on the spot directly at THB’s request, and attend THB’s meetings and respond to THB’s enquiries on a timely basis when necessary.
     “As the NATS had never been involved in the development process of the new ATMS, there would be no role conflict for the NATS to be appointed as THB’s independent consultant for assessing the readiness of the new ATMS,” the THB spokesman remarked.
     The THB understood that there was only limited number of qualified consultants possessing professional knowledge about ATC systems.  The NATS was the only qualified service provider to THB’s knowledge at the time.  In this connection, the THB appointed the NATS as its independent consultant by means of single quotation, which was fully in compliance with the Government’s established procurement procedures.
     Before full commissioning of the new ATMS in November 2016, the NATS had conducted three assessments of the system to review the safety of system engineering, and the readiness of the CAD for phased functional implementation and eventually full transition at different stages.  The results of various assessments taken by the NATS were all positive, confirming that the system engineering was safe, stable and reliable.  Both the system and the CAD were confirmed to be ready for phased functional implementation and full transition in June and November 2016 respectively. 
     All the assessment reports prepared by the NATS had been submitted directly to the Secretary for Transport and Housing for reference.  The THB had shared all the assessment reports with the Panel on Economic Development of the Legislative Council at the meeting on November 28, 2016.  Members of the public can have access to the reports at the website of the Panel (http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr16-17/english/panels/edev/papers/edev20161128cb4-154-4-e.pdf).
     The THB will continue to closely monitor the operations of the new ATMS and will spare no effort in ensuring the safety of the new ATMS.  Aviation safety will not be compromised under any circumstance.
Ends/Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Issued at HKT 22:43
Today's Press Releases