Cargo operations at Windhoek International have resumed after some airlines last week suspended services following the overnight replacement of the airport's groundhandling services provider on August 19, 2023, sending flight operations at the Namibian capital into chaos.

The new ground handler, Paragon Aviation Services, lacks IATA ACC3/RA3/KC cargo security manager validation but has been certified by the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Namibian Airports Company said in a statement.

This followed inquiries by the Namibian Logistic Association (NLA) whether Paragon had obtained the Regulated Agents Certification (RA3 certification) mandated by European Union regulations and whether Paragon complied with ground handling regulations set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The NLA also enquired whether Paragon had undergone the requisite audits by international aviation companies, as required by the EU regulations and whether the NCAA conducted assessments of Paragon’s warehouse facilities and screening equipment.

"Accreditation for RA3-approved cargo is provided only after actual operations are observed by the person(s) conducting the audit and could therefore not be obtained prior to the change in the ground-handling service provider," the NAC explained. "Imports and exports through HKIA [Hosea Kutako International Airport] are active, and direct exports to the European Union can only happen once the ACC3 RA3 certification is attained. However, these exports can still be processed through alternative routes such as Johannesburg O.R. Tambo (South Africa), Addis Ababa International (Ethiopia), Luanda 4 De Fevereiro (Angola), or Doha Hamad International (Qatar), for the EU zone," the airport company stated.

It said South African Airways resumed cargo operations at Windhoek on August 23, and Paragon had handled cargo for Ethiopian Airlines, TAAG Angola Airlines, and Airlink (South Africa). Consultations with EW Discover and Qatar Airways were advanced.

After a week-long suspension of freight services to Windhoek, Airlink resumed cargo operations on August 29 following constructive talks with the new groundhandler. It said Airlink employees would support Paragon staff to familiarise them with Airlink's cargo handling processes. The airline earlier stated it could only restore cargo operations when Paragon's aviation security - including dangerous goods handling – and other cargo handling certifications, approvals, and protocols were in place.

Meanwhile, the NAC said passenger operations at Windhoek International had returned to normal following cancellations, diversions, and flight delays that left scores of passengers stranded after the airport company on August 19 abruptly evicted previous groundhandler Menzies Aviation (Namibia).

According to the NAC, three flights (two EW Discover and one Qatar Airways) diverted to Johannesburg on August 19, but the Qatari carrier returned on August 20, while the German leisure carrier resumed service to Windhoek on August 21. "All 13 daily airline departures from Windhoek Int'l/HKIA are continuing as per the regular schedule," the authority said.

Following its eviction, Menzies Namibia instituted urgent legal proceedings in the Namibia High Court seeking a court order permitting it to continue providing ground handling services. After hearing the respective parties' legal submissions, the High Court postponed the case to September 1, 2023, for delivery of judgment.

On August 23, 2023, Menzies instituted additional legal proceedings in the High Court seeking similar and ancillary relief. No hearing date has been set in respect of its latest court case.

Menzies had the ground handling contract at Windhoek between January 2014 and June 2022. However, in April 2022, the contract was awarded to Paragon, a joint venture between the NAC and Ethiopian Airlines. Menzies has been challenging the legality of this decision in Namibian courts for the past year.