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05 March 2008
Moroccan civil aviation is governed nationally by Decree 2-61-161, dated July 10 1962, which stipulates the conditions for registration, navigability and the legal status of aircraft and aviation personnel.
It also sets out conditions relating to:
It makes a distinction between public and private transportation, including air clubs and flight schools.
It addresses the financial liability of aircraft operators, including:
Furthermore, the decree provides for the individual liability of airline employees and management and that of the airline companies for infractions such as operating without proper authorization or licences, including pecuniary and penal penalties. It also governs the framework for insurance coverage and warranties.
Aviation regulations and their application are the responsibility of the Department of Civil Aviation, which works to ensure the development of and compliance with all regulations - administrative procedures, authorizations and control and certification of airlines in particular.
The National Airport Bureau is responsible for the establishment, operation and maintenance of civil airports, as well as air-traffic control. It is also responsible for passenger and cargo transport.
Morocco benefits from airports located in 15 cities. The largest are located in Casablanca, Marrakech and Agadir, recording 5.8 million, 3 million and 1.5 million passengers in 2007, respectively.
Royal Air Maroc (RAM), the national airline, was transformed recently into a joint stock company for the purpose of ensuring better management and corporate governance in the face of increasing competition. In addition to RAM, Morocco has three local airlines - Regional Airlines and the recently added Jet4You and Atlas Blue.
As a result of the restructure and consolidation of the Casablanca Airport Bureau and regional offices to form the National Airport Bureau, as well as recent expansion and planned upgrades to the airports in Casablanca, Marrakech and Fez, Morocco is positioned to meet its goal of significantly increasing the number of airline passengers travelling in Morocco.
For example, by 2010 satellite navigation systems are scheduled to be operational as part of the new upgrades. Furthermore, the three aforementioned airports are to be equipped with approach radars.
These changes support the bureau’s growth strategy which includes the continued evolution of Moroccan airports - particularly the Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca - into international hubs servicing North and South America, Africa and the Middle East.
In addition to the national regulations governing the aviation industry, as part of its growth strategy Morocco has ratified numerous international treaties and conventions in order to conform to international standards. These agreements address the conformity of aircraft service procedures, insurance coverage and security measures.
Morocco is a party to the Warsaw Convention of 1929 on the Liability for International Carriage of Passengers and Cargo. Furthermore, on June 8 1957 it became a signatory to the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation. Likewise, it has ratified the 1948 Geneva Convention on the Recognition of International Rights of Aircraft.
The most recent and perhaps most notable international agreement to which Morocco is a party is the EU-Morocco Open Sky Treaty. It was signed on December 12 2006 and is within the context of Vision 2010, which should result in a significant increase in tourist activity.
To meet the targets of Vision 2010 the number of international passengers must grow from 5.8 million to 15.6 million per year and the weekly frequency of international flights must increase from 600 to 1,300. The proportion of flights from point to point to Moroccan small towns without a stopover in Casablanca must increase from 40% to 60%. In order to meet these challenges, approximately 60 more aircraft are required (ie, B737 or A320 type).
Twenty two new companies (of which 19 are European) have entered the Moroccan sky with regular flights, bringing the number of companies to 44 in 2006. The treaty eliminates nationality, capacity and travel frequency requirements for air carriers. This opens the Moroccan skies to any European airline, regardless of nationality or travel frequency. Likewise, Moroccan air carriers can use any route between Morocco and Europe without limitations regarding capacity or frequency. Under Open Sky, foreign investment in Moroccan airlines is permitted, but the airline must remain at least 51% Moroccan-owned. The new regime also provides for a simplified registration process.
The treaty will enter into force once the ratification procedures are completed by the parties. Once in force, the EU-Morocco accord will supersede all previous air travel agreements between EU member states and Morocco.
The main issue facing private operators in Morocco is fair competition. The introduction of new local airlines to support travel between cities creates a model that is reflective of competitive markets in Europe and the United States. This expansion provides more options and flexibility for travellers, whose numbers continue to climb both within the local market and internationally.
Foreign companies may invest in aircraft provisioning for local airlines, which may be achieved primarily through financing or operating leases. Investors can choose a foreign law to govern the contract provided that at least one of the parties to the agreement is foreign, and the Moroccan courts will recognize and enforce foreign judgments and arbitration awards.
As for the enforcement of the agreement, there are no self-help remedies permitted and all disputes must be settled amicably or through judicial or arbitral procedures.
Finally, foreign investors are permitted to register mortgages to secure the payment of instalments by aircraft operators, according to the financing of the aircraft.
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