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Mar 31, 2006

Thirty years of legal service

© Reuse this The development of aviation law in Africa has paralleled growth and development in the aviation industry.

Tied in with this growth and development though is a risk warn- ing to passengers flying on African airlines, which, according to the International Air Transport Asso-ciation (IATA), is 17 times greater as compared to US carriers.

There are concerns that a lack of political will from African leaders is the greatest contributor to the risks associated with African aviation. Moreover, outdated equipment, poor maintenance and shortage of skills all add to the continent’s misdemeanours.

Law firm Deneys Reitz shares its concerns about Africa’s notoriously- dangerous skies.

“We are involved in the investigation of accidents and the pursuit or defence of claims,” says company director Pierre Naude.

Naude confirms that there had been 13 fatal air-transport accidents in Africa last year alone, which resulted in many deaths and injuries.

In response, the IATA recently launched its ‘Focus on Africa’ programme in order to improve general aircraft-safety standards. However, emphasises Naude, the programme will only be effective if it is actively supported.

As things stand now, failure to comply with an IATA operational audit within two years may end in an airline’s losing its global aviation-institution membership.

In response to safety concerns many European countries are beginning to impose flight restrictions on African airlines, banning them from flying through their airspace.

Naude comments that this will have a severe financial impact on the already marginal profitability of many airlines but may be the only effective way to improve the situation.

Working in association with the Civil Aviation Authority, Deneys Reitz strives to find answers to complicated airline-safety questions.

“These answers are not only aimed at providing legal opinions but, in addition, we hope that the outcome of such investigations may lead to increased safety measures.” The company acts for the Airbus Financial Services (AFS), in which it advises AFS on an ongoing basis in relation to the restocking of the South African Airways fleet.

Deneys Reitz has had an active, expert aviation department for decades and is seen as one of the most prominent sources of legal assis-tance to the aviation industry.

The law firm provides a full range of legal services required by the corporate world and has specialised in the aviation industry for some 30 years.

“We offer both domestic and international clients the benefit of wide experience and knowledge,” Naude enthuses.

The firm’s aviation and aviation-insurance division boasts inter- national expertise and capability.

“This is of particular value in the light of the increasing importance of aviation to transport and communication worldwide.” Naude notes that the areas of specialisation include: • advice on liability claims; • interpretation of insurance policies; • advice regarding insurance claims; • analysis of international conventions; • advice on licensing air transportation; • accident enquiries; and • aircraft finance and corporate commercial transactions. Further, the company maintains close relationships with insurance brokers, loss adjusters, insurers and transport authorities.

Deneys Reitz also helps the road-transport industry with its corporate dealings and applications to all types of transport authorities.

With regards to all claims, the company works to iron out any problems which might arise from carriage.

“Rail transport and claims assis-tance are also provided,” Naude adds.

Deneys Reitz changed the profile of its professional support staff some years back and its decision was reflected in its growth of professional staff from previously-disadvantaged backgrounds.

The rate increased from 6% in January 1994 to 35% in January this year.

Black representation at the candidate attorney level is 57%, of which 52% represents black women.

“The firm has 12 black directors, which represent 13% black ownership,” Naude reports.

Sixty-three black lawyers, who participate actively in the planning and implementation of the firm’s transformation policy, are represented at every level within the company, from executive management downward.

“These figures reflect the practi- cal implementation of a policy, which has been confirmed by the executive committee of the firm as a strategic imperative.” In terms of existing shareholders, Naude reports that this aspect of the company covers all racial groups. “Transformation is achieved as black lawyers progress along a career path, which involves the development of their practical experi- ence and skills to add to their acade-mic qualifications,” he says.

The company employs more than 200 professional staff and its affiliated company, Africa International Legal Services, is a specialised division that provides an international pan-African legal service.
Edited by: thamashni naidoo
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