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Airport wants CBSA agents

The Northwest Regional Airport is optimistic the CBSA will finally accept its pitch to provide customs services here.
Here’s one of Hawkair’s Dash-8 airplanes on the tarmac of the Northwest Regional Airport.

The Northwest Regional Airport is optimistic the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) will finally accept its pitch to provide customs services here.

Airport manager Carman Hendry said he’s submitted a revised application after being rejected.

And this time he’s confident he’s corrected  misconceptions used by the federal agency in its rejection.

Approval would mean international private and corporate aircraft flying under a specific federal program would be able to land and clear security in Terrace.

The program, called CANPASS, is designed for small aircraft, where all of the passengers are first registered.

A phone call is made two to 24 hours before a flight is scheduled to land.

The aircraft must fly to an approved airport so an inspection can take place if deemed necessary.

“The Northwest Regional Airport does not meet the criteria set out in the CANPASS program and CBSA is not in a position to provide service on a full Cost Recovery basis,” Roslyn MacVicar, regional director general pacific region stated in her rejection letter to Hendry.

MacVicar listed four reasons, which included fiscal restraints (citing a the closure of other CBSA locations in this region due to lack of business) and low staffing levels in Prince Rupert where the nearest CBSA office is located.

She also said distance between Prince Rupert and Terrace is greater than 100km limit set out by the CANPASS program and that there’s a concern over winter road conditions.

Hendry acknowledged the reasons but did say they are “not very strong arguments.”

He said Prince Rupert CBSA officers often drive right past the airport to service ships in Kitimat even during the winter months.

Hendry appealed the decision in Ottawa in May, and afterwards was told by CBSA to resubmit his business case.

A decision by CBSA is not expected until at least early September as it takes at least three months for the application to be processed and reviewed.

Having an international capability in Terrace would be huge for the region, Hendry explained.

As it stands now, international aircraft intending to come to Terrace must first stop in at another Canadian airport to clear customs.

Hendry said this process may discourage some travellers from continuing on to Terrace although he has no figures on how many potential visitors are being diverted.

Prince Rupert and Prince George are the closest CANPASS airports.

The Northwest Regional Airport has argued that by eliminating the need to stop at another airport first, time and money would be saved for commercial and private aircraft.

Hendry also said the CANPASS program would be at no cost to the CBSA, as the airport would cover the costs.