Local screeners' failure to detect some dummy explosives, which a member of the UK monitoring team planted in baggage, was one of the reasons behind the ban on Dhaka-London air cargo and warning of more such actions.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said this yesterday while briefing journalists about why a British security company was being hurriedly appointed to upgrade Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport's security.
The minister said a member of the UK team visited Bangladesh and “expressed satisfaction” during a meeting with him.
“Before leaving, he planted some fake explosives, but our screeners could not detect those.”
Asked for explanation, a senior ministry official said it was “a mock test” that took place in January. The UK team member was posing as a passenger with dummy explosives and arms in his baggage and cargo. “But our screeners could detect none of those.”
Without mentioning any name or date, the minister also mentioned another incident when operators screened eight items but recorded 24 in the logbook.
“After these anomalies were found, they [UK team] got extremely annoyed and said if things go like this we will be bound to take measures,” Menon told reporters at the airport before signing of the deal with Redline Aviation Security Ltd.
In the afternoon, Shahjalal's acting director Md Nurul Islam and Redline Chief Executive Officer Paul Mason signed the deal in the presence of the minister and top officials or the ministry and Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab).
The company will provide advisory, supervisory and operational services under the authority of the airport director. Under the two-year agreement, it will also supervise and train local screeners, said Menon.
Earlier on Sunday, the cabinet committee on economic affairs and the cabinet committee on purchase approved a technical project proposal (TPP) of over Tk 73 crore, paving the way for the deal without any tender.
In a press release issued by the Caab, Redline CEO Paul Mason said, “Redline will deploy nearly 29 of its team across a variety of aviation security functions, including manning screening points at passenger terminals and the cargo complex for a short interim period.”
“Redline will put in place all necessary training for airport screens and the security personnel of Caab who will eventually take full control.”
On March 8, the UK government imposed a ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka citing security concerns.
The same day, British Prime Minister David Cameron in a letter to her Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina called for a visible improvement of airport security by March 31 to avoid further measures like banning of Biman's direct passenger flights from Dhaka to London.
Against this backdrop, British envoy Alison Blake leading a UK delegation at a meeting with Bangladesh government representatives on March 13 suggested hiring a foreign company for security management at the airport.
The government primarily picked two firms -- Redline and Restrata -- from the list of four companies suggested by the British high commissioner at the meeting.
Yesterday, the civil aviation minister said Redline will start deployment of its manpower from today and within next three days they will complete it. The company will assign 29 of its staff, including 15 screeners who will work along with Caab screeners.
“Redline said they will be able to withdraw their 15 screeners within a month.”
Menon added he had already talked to Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, who said that after the deal “we'll do everything to get the ban withdrawn”.
Asked whether the deal is signed hurriedly under pressure, the minister said, “We have done whatever is required to keep our airport secure.”