Direct air cargo ban to UK lifted, but Biman has to wait further

A Monitor Report 01 Mar, 2018  |    -      +
Dhaka : The direct air cargo ban on Dhaka to London route is now gone after nearly two years, but Biman has to wait for another few weeks, to receive ACC3 certification from the British government. The ban has already cost Bangladesh dearly in terms of revenues both export and carriage as well as market.

The announcement concerning withdrawal of the ban came after very long wait, on February 18, at a press conference jointly organised by the British High Commission in Dhaka and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism.

AKM Shahjahan Kamal, Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism and Alison Blake, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, addressed the press conference at the conference room of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA).

Blake handed over the certificate on withdrawal of cargo ban to Kamal. The lifting of the suspension comes as a result of ongoing cooperation between the UK and Bangladesh and the joint assessment of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Blake said.

Suspension on the direct cargo flight was not a political matter, it was a technical thing, said the British High Commissioner and added, "It's a major achievement that you have transformed in the cargo handling and created a condition that we are very satisfied with."

Since February 18, in theory all airlines except Biman Bangladesh Airlines, were to be able to carry air cargo directly from HSIA to UK. It was said Biman needed to wait to get the certificate of "air cargo or main carrier operating into the union from a third country airport (ACC3)".

AM Mosaddique Ahmed, Managing Director and CEO, who was present at the press conference, had then expressed the hope that Biman would get the required certificate in 15 to 20 days. But in reality, all the airlines operating out of HSIA are still facing roadblocks, sources preferring anonymity said, adding, the team to validate Biman is yet to visit Bangladesh.

Due to CAAB lapse

Following the bombing at Istanbul Airport and crash of a Russian jet over Egypt's Sinai desert in October, the UK Department for Transport made a list of 38 airports of 20 countries, including Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport that have security concerns.

On March 8, 2016, the UK government imposed the ban following a failure of HSIA to meet some international security requirements.

Experts from the UK and the US inspected the Dhaka airport twice and found "serious security lapses and risks". The teams were concerned about cargo screening and management at the airport.

It was unfortunate that, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), the custodian of civil aviation in the country, could not see the ban coming, due to inaction in updating cargo security as per global standard.

Following the decision of UK, Australia and Germany, the European Union also banned direct shipment of cargo due to insufficient safety and security measures.

With the ban in place, the EU-bound cargo from Bangladesh had to be rescreened in a third country-mainly in Dubai, Doha, Bangkok, New Delhi or Mumbai.

Huge loss

The ban has cost Bangladesh huge loss in terms of export of perishables and market.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines, which was the only carrier that carried cargo directly between Dhaka and London, incurred a loss of over Tk 100 core due to the ban in 2017 alone.

Before the ban, it used to earn Tk 40 to 50 lakh for each flight from carrying approx 20 to 25 tonnes of Cargo.

The export of perishables, especially vegetables from Bangladesh, received the hardest hit. In addition to loss of business in past two years, the ban allowed other countries to enter US and EU markets.

Exporters of vegetables from Bangladesh are now expected to face tough condition to recover the lost market.

Measures taken

With the ban, the government of UK also suggested measures to be taken, to improve overall security at HSIA. To implement the suggestive measures, government of Bangladesh immediately appointed British company Redline Aviation Security Limited for two years, to meet the safety requirements at the airport.

With the cooperation of British company, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) introduced European standard training courses for all levels of officers and employees of HSIA. At the same time measures to elevate security at the airport including Dhaka-London flight and cargo security, to European standard were taken in hand. To upgrade the Export Cargo Complex to European standard, training for Screening Certification was introduced.

To make Export Cargo Compliant and to maintain Sustainable Standard, different types of international standard training courses have been completed and are still going on. These helped concerned officers and screeners acquire proficiency in Cargo Screening.

Already three-stage security has been established for special security circle at Export Cargo area.

In addition, manual for cargo screening to transport export cargo safey, SOP, Protocol and Charter of Duties for all officers and employees engaged in air cargo, have been prepared. These are all of international standard.

While these measures were been taken, in June 2017, European Union, declared all consignments of air cargo and mail from Bangladesh to Europe as High Risk Cargo and Mail (HRCM) and suggested installation of EDS (Explosive Detection System) and introduction of cargo screen with EDD (Explosive Detection Dog).

On the basis of the suggestion, in August 2017, these two new technologies were installed and made functional at the Export Cargo Complex.

Following installation of EDS and introduction of EDD, validators of all airlines expressed satisfaction at the overall security and management of Export Cargo at HSIA.

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