UK lifts ban on direct Dhaka-London freight flight

Embargo on Biman cargo trips stays for now

FE Report | Monday, 19 February 2018

The UK Sunday withdrew the ban it had imposed on direct Dhaka-London freight flights two years back on security grounds, excepting Biman trips for now.
In the wake of some untoward happenings, the UK government had imposed the restrictions citing poor security at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka.
The withdrawal announcement came Sunday at a press conference jointly organised by the UK High Commission in Dhaka and Bangladesh's Civil Aviation Ministry, following marked improvements in the situation these days.
"I am delighted to confirm that the temporary suspension on direct air cargo between Bangladesh and the UK has been lifted, following significant progress made in meeting a number of important security conditions," said British High Commissioner in Dhaka Ms Alison Blake.
The lifting of the restrictions comes as a result of ongoing cooperation between the UK and Bangladesh, including a joint assessment of HSIA and working with a number of national and international colleagues, she added.
"I am personally grateful for the close co-operation between our two governments which has allowed us to achieve this important outcome. It really has been an example of how to address a shared problem in a constructive and cooperative measure," said the British envoy.
Ms Blake made it clear that bar on direct cargo flight was not a political decision, it was a technical thing.
"It's a major achievement that you have transformed in the cargo handling and created a condition we are very satisfied with," she said while answering questions.
She praised the positive engagement of the current and the immediate- past aviation ministers and officials of the tourism ministry and CAAB officials with the Department for Transport and the British High Commission.
The diplomat said the improvements made are testament to the commitment and hard work by both sides and the contractor appointed by the Bangladesh government.
Newly appointed Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister AKM Shahjahan Kamal and Secretary SM Golam Faruk, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) chairman Air Vice-Marshal M Naim Hasan and CAAB Member (operations) Air Commodore M Mostafizur Rahman also spoke at the press conference in the HSIA conference room.
National flag-carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines will be eligible for operating direct cargo flights after availing the 'air cargo or mail carriers that operate into the Union from a third-country airport (ACC3)' certification.
The four-day audit is scheduled to start today (Monday). Biman authorities, however, expect to start operation of cargo flights to the UK from the first week of March.
The UK government imposed the ban on March 8, 2016.
The European Union, where more than 54 per cent of Bangladesh's exports are headed, also had declared the airport a "red zone" due to insufficient safety and security measures, following the lead of the UK, Australia and Germany.
Officials at the civil aviation ministry and Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh have expressed the hope that the EU, Australia and Germany would follow suit after the UK step.
With the ban in place, the EU-bound cargo airplanes from Bangladesh have to rescreen goods in a third country, preferably in Dubai, Qatar, Thailand or India.
Although Biman Bangladesh Airlines has claimed to have incurred a loss of over Tk 1.0 billion owing to the ban, the Biman MD declined to specify the amount of losses at the press conference.
He said they carry 25-30 tonnes of cargo to London from Dhaka and 15-20 tonnes from London on four flights a week.
Biman was the lone carrier to operate direct cargo flights between Dhaka and London. But Etihad and Emirates now carry the cargoes.
The British envoy also said they are lifting the ban unconditionally, but they will continue monitoring.
After the restrictions were imposed, the Bangladesh government appointed British company Redline Aviation Security Limited to meet the safety requirements at the airport for two years.
AKM Shahjahan Kamal expressed the hope that Australia and Germany, too, would lift the same kind of ban by taking the tip from the United Kingdom.
Also, the name of Bangladesh would be withdrawn from the high-risk-cargo category while sending consignment from Bangladesh to the EU countries.
The minister described various steps taken by the government in improving the security measures at Dhaka airport as per the suggestions and observations by the UK.
Sources concerned think the air-cargo ban was more a blow to the country's image than financial damage.

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