December 8, 2016 / 5:34 PM / a year ago

Airlines call for alternative to "useless" U.N. security database

GENEVA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Airlines said on Thursday a U.N. warning mechanism designed to avoid a repeat of the 2014 downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine is “useless” and called for urgent new ways of detecting dangers to aircraft posed by war zones.

A new system should also contain information on other security threats and not just conflict zones, according to officials of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), representing some 265 airlines.

A conflict zones repository launched in April last year by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was meant for states to provide information on potential risks around the world so that airlines could avoid those regions.

However, it does not contain enough information and even that is not provided fast enough for airlines to use in real time, a security expert with IATA said on Thursday.

“The repository is inadequate, woefully inadequate,” Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for airport, passenger cargo and security, told journalists at a briefing in Geneva. “If it’s not timely and relevant, it’s useless.”

A spokesman for Montreal-based ICAO said it had nothing to add to changes announced in July, when it restricted the data to information provided by states where a conflict is occurring.

One of the problems regulators have faced is sensitivities of nations about including warnings given by their neighbours.

IATA’s Careen said airlines do have access to a lot of the security information they need for their daily operations but it is stored in various locations and complicated to access.

He said ICAO had heard IATA’s concerns and the two were now launching a survey to see where airlines were getting their information from. The aim is to present new recommendations by the middle of 2017 and enact them by the end of the year.

“It was implemented too quickly without giving it appropriate level of thought as to what was required by the industry,” Careen said of the database.

International investigators reported in September that a missile launcher used to shoot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014 came from Russia and was returned there afterwards.

Russia maintained that the airliner, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down by Ukraine’s military rather than the pro-Russian rebels. All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch, were killed.

Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Writing by Victoria Bryan; editing by Mark Heinrich

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