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19 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Ban on direct cargo flights to UK lifted

British high commissioner Alison Blake announced on Sunday that the United Kingdom (UK) has removed the restrictions imposed on direct cargo flights from Bangladesh to the UK. She was speaking at a press meet, held at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. Blake handed over a document detailing the removal of the restriction on direct cargo flights to the civil aviation and tourism minister. “I'm 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,” she said.

The lifting of the suspension comes as a result of the ongoing cooperation between the UK and Bangladesh as well as a joint assessment of the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. “I'm grateful for the close cooperation between our two governments. Without it, it wouldn't have been possible to achieve this important outcome,” said Blake.

She also expressed her gratitude to the Bangladesh government: “I'm very grateful to you Minister Kamal, your predecessor, Minister Rashed Khan Menon, and the secretary and other officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, including CAAB chairman Air Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan and its officials, for your positive engagement to the transport department and the British high commission”.

Blake said that it was possible to lift the ban on direct cargo flights on the Dhaka–London route owing to the serious effort and sincerity of the two governments in identifying the problems. “I believe that no political motive was involved in the imposition of the temporary ban on cargo flights. Lifting the ban is also not a political decision. Everything has been done on the basis of security grounds,” she added.

Bangladesh now expects a formal letter on the lifting of the ban from the UK transport department as the authorities have installed explosives detection devices and a liquid explosives detection system in the export cargo zone of the airport.

Civil aviation and tourism minister AKM. Shahjahan Kamal and Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) member Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman were present during the press conference.

Kamal expressed hope that the Australian government, too, will withdraw the ban on cargo flights. He also said that Bangladeshi people faced problems in exporting products directly owing to the ban on direct cargo flights. "But now, the barriers have been removed as the UK government has withdrawn the ban," he added.

The president of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers’ and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Siddiqur Rahman, told The Independent that the ban hampered the economy and created an image crisis for Bangladesh.

To prevent such prohibitions, the government should ensure security so that the business community does not suffer due to excess costs incurred to export products, he said. The lifting of the ban would help the exporters to make timely shipments at a reasonable rate, he added.

Earlier, foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said that the Bangladesh government had made a “huge effort” to sort out the issue and the UK was “pleased” to note the progress. On February 9, during his visit to Dhaka, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson indicated  the ban’s imminent withdrawal, saying: “The aviation authority in Bangladesh and the Government of Bangladesh have made huge efforts. We are very pleased to see the progress that has been made.”

On March 8, 2016, the British government imposed a ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka to London after Biman Bangladesh Airlines failed to pass safety and security tests. Biman’s cargo business shrank by 22.54 per cent in the last fiscal year due to the ban.

Bangladesh Biman was the only carrier that operated direct cargo flights between Dhaka and London. Before the ban, Biman used to earn Tk. 40–50 lakh for each cargo flight. Around 25–30 tonnes of goods, mostly comprising apparel and vegetables, used to be shipped in each of the direct flights to London.

In FY 2016–17, Biman earned Tk. 244 crore from its cargo business in contrast to Tk. 315 crore, which it had earned in the previous year. The state-run carrier transported 33,542 tonnes of cargo in the last fiscal year, down by 18 per cent on a year-on-year basis, according to the data. After the ban was imposed, the Bangladesh government appointed the British company Redline Aviation Security Limited Seven to meet the safety requirements at the airport.

In early 2017, the British authorities imposed 10 conditions, including following the UK model in terms of aviation security, to lift the embargo on direct cargo flights in a blow to Bangladesh’s exports by air routes to Europe.

The European Union, which accounts for more than 54 per cent of Bangladesh's exports, also declared the airport a “red zone” due to its insufficient safety and security arrangements, following the lead of the UK, Australia and Germany. With the ban in place, EU-bound cargo airlines from Bangladesh had to rescreen goods in a third country, with the UAE (Dubai), Qatar, Thailand, and India being the preferred choices. The ban caused a huge loss to Bangladesh.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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