The UK government is likely to lift the ban on Dhaka-London direct air cargo early next week, putting forward some “observations” about the security at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, say civil aviation officials.
Alison Blake, British high commissioner in Bangladesh, would hand over a relevant letter from the UK Department for Transport to Civil Aviation Minister AKM Shahjahan Kamal, a top ministry official told The Daily Star yesterday.
Blake and Shahjahan would meet during a programme of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) likely to be held Sunday, said the official, wishing not to be named.
The official said the UK might also come up with some “observations” while lifting the ban. Those may include keeping a joint consultant and ensuring four security inspections at the airport by the UK every year.
The UK Department for Transport slapped the ban on March 8, 2016 after the airport had failed to meet some international security requirements.
The European Union, where more than 54 percent of Bangladesh's exports are headed, also 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 Caab hope that the EU and the two countries would follow the decision of the UK.
With the ban in place, the EU-bound cargo airlines from Bangladesh have to rescreen goods in a third country, preferably in Dubai, Qatar, Thailand or India.
The ban caused a huge loss for Bangladesh.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines incurred a loss of over Tk 100 crore last year due to the ban, said Shakil Meraj, general manager (public relations) of the national flag carrier.
Following a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on February 9, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson said the UK government would shortly lift the ban.
Biman was the only carrier that operated direct cargo flights between Dhaka and London.
Before the ban, it used to earn Tk 40 lakh to Tk 50 lakh for each flight from carrying cargoes. Some 25 to 30 tonnes of goods, mostly apparel and vegetables, were shipped in each flight.
After the ban was imposed, the Bangladesh government appointed British company Redline Aviation Security Limited Seven to meet the safety requirements at the airport.
Bangladesh in the last two years made various other efforts to have the ban gone.
Talking about the efforts, Ziaul Haque, an additional secretary at the civil aviation ministry, told this correspondent that Biman has installed an explosive detection system, explosive detection devices and a liquid explosive detection system in the export cargo zone of the airport -- a major demand by the UK, Germany and the EU.
A dual view x-ray scanning machine, a dual view scanning machine, a under vehicle scanning system, and a barrier gate with card reader were also installed as per the UK's advice.
Besides, eight trained dogs, which can detect drugs, firearms and explosives, have been included in the dog squad of the Airport Armed Police Battalion, he added.
The erstwhile Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon visited the UK on November 27 last year to discuss ways for lifting the ban. On his return, he said the ban was likely to be gone in late December last year or early January this year.
A three-member delegation from the UK Department for Transport visited the airport in November. Caab officials claimed the UK delegation expressed satisfaction over the security measures there.
But in January, the UK Department for Transport slapped 10 fresh conditions for lifting the ban and Dhaka strongly objected about three of them.
The three conditions were for having the joint consultant, following the UK's regulation on the airport safety and ensuring four inspections there by the UK authorities, according to officials.