Third terminal to open new horizon for overseas trade
The third terminal at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) will open a new horizon in handling and air shipment of goods as the new facility is expected to improve the capacity of the cargo village.
Users have long complained about thefts of goods from the tiny cargo village, products left unattended, the deterioration of quality of items, and the delay in releasing of goods.
Sometimes, garment samples don't reach factories on time, meaning exporters can't begin manufacturing products and deliver them to international buyers within the agreed date. As a result, they face either cancellation of orders, a big discount or delayed payments.
Sometimes, exporters alleged, buyers didn't receive the exact quantity of goods as some of the products were stolen, tarnishing the image of the country and the suppliers.
Besides, freight forwarders pay 18 US cents per kilogramme as fees for using the airport, an amount described as too high compared with other regional airports.
For example, in order to send cargo from HSIA to any destination in Europe, it costs between $2.50 and $3 during normal times and $5 during peak seasons. The higher rate sometimes prompts some exporters to use the Kolkata airport to ship products through airways in order to cut costs.
But those incidents and hassles might be over once the cargo village begins its full-fledged operation. The terminal was opened partially on Friday.
Local exporters and importers are optimistic that the incidents of thefts will not take place anymore and freight charges will come down significantly as more airlines will operate a higher number of cargo flights, which will make the business competitive.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said users have long demanded that the government widen the space at the cargo village as the current facility has not been enough to meet the demand of the expanding international trade of the country.
"The competitiveness of local businesses will increase globally and the confidence of international trade partners will receive a boost," he said, adding that some European importers always use air freights for the quick delivery of goods.
Hassan also expects that time-consuming scanning of exportable goods will not be required since products will be sent from the state-of-the-art terminal.
As an important player in the global readymade garment supply chain, local apparel suppliers have to air-ship more than 800 tonnes of goods a day. The volume goes up to 1,200 tonnes during peak times.
The space dedicated to export-bound cargoes in terminals 1 and 2 is 19,600 square metres and their combined annual handling capacity is two lakh tonnes.
The new terminal has a space of 36,000 square metres set aside for exporters and the handling capacity is 5.46 lakh tonnes per year.
Currently, an area of 13,700 square metres is dedicated to dealing with imported cargoes in the two terminals while the third one will add 27,000 square metres.
The handling capacity of the first two terminals is 84,379 tonnes while the third terminal will boost the capacity by 2.73 lakh tonnes.
Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star that they expected to start the operation of the import and export cargo terminal by March if an operator can be appointed or Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the current operator, can raise its capability to run the cargo terminal.
The new export and import cargo complex will be fully automated.
About 60 percent of all cargoes transported by air from Bangladesh are carried by passenger aircraft, while the remaining by exclusive cargo flights.
According to a report from the civil aviation and tourism ministry, the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation currently has a 420-square-metre cold storage facility in the area adjacent to the existing export cargo terminal building.
Kabir Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, says thanks to the third terminal, the use of third countries will reduce since local exporters and importers will get enough space at the HSIA.
"The cargo handling capacity will increase multiple times because of the opening of the new terminal."
Masrur Reaz, chairman of the Policy Exchange, Bangladesh, says the third terminal will definitely have a positive economic impact because of higher connectivity and airfreight activities.
"It will boost the confidence of international businesses," he said, pointing to the improvement in logistics infrastructures in recent times.