Screening improved, not up to mark yet
Bangladesh is expecting to pass the test for European security standards at the Dhaka airport in the upcoming audit, creating grounds for the withdrawal of the UK ban on direct air cargo from here to London.
A team of experts from the UK is scheduled to check from April 8 whether security measures at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport conform to the standards. Bangladesh fell short of standards in the last validation audit carried out by the experts from March 13 to 20, said a top official of the civil aviation ministry.
Improper screening of cargoes, keeping UK-bound cargoes in an insecure manner and inappropriate stockpiling of cargoes at the cargo village of the airport were the key reasons behind the failure, highly placed sources said.
The authorities have improved the security and screening as per recommendations by the UK expert team, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said yesterday.
The government is expecting to pass the check this time, he told The Daily Star. “Then we are expecting the withdrawal of the ban on direct cargoes.”
British security company Redline has been scanning cargoes and passengers at the Dhaka airport since March 21. It has also been giving suggestions on how to ensure foolproof security.
During validation audits, experts assigned by European countries mainly see whether countries operating flights to EU nations maintain European security standards at the airports and airlines.
If Bangladesh fails to meet the requirements this time too, it may face tougher measures in future as the expert team was not satisfied while checking the functions of Biman Bangladesh and the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) last time, according to an exporter who is familiar with the validation.
Bangladesh's failure in meeting the UK validation standards may influence other European countries to ban direct cargo carriers or passenger flights from Dhaka to those nations, the exporter said on condition of anonymity.
The validation of security at the Dhaka airport expired yesterday.
It will, however, have no impact on Bangladesh as direct cargos from Dhaka to the UK have already been banned, said the ministry official.
The validation is a computer programme, through which an assessment is made of actions, decisions, plans and transactions to check if those are correct, complete, and being implemented as intended and whether those are delivering the intended outcome.
The British expert team was supposed to review the compliance with the EU standards by the end of December last year to re-issue or cancel the validation certificate.
But the validation was extended up to March 31 upon request by the Bangladesh government for additional time to meet the standards.
According to EU validation standards, all air carriers flying from a non-EU country to the EU must be registered as “Air Cargo Carrier operating into the EU from a third country airport (ACC3)” by June 30, 2014 by a EU member state based on a valid security programme.
ACC3s must ensure that all cargoes and mails carried to the EU is physically screened or come from secure and validated supply chain.
From July 1, 2014, screening needs to be done according to the EU standards. For each carrier, ACC3 validation is required for each airport that serves as the “Last Point of Departure” before flying to the EU.
Following the EU regulation, Bangladesh Biman got ACC3 validation and the certification of “Regulated Agent Third Country (RA3)” required for dealing with cargoes on the ground, which allowed the national carrier to send cargoes directly to the EU.
Other carrier despite having ACC3 validation at the Dhaka airport was also allowed to send direct consignments to the EU over security issues.
Though Biman got ACC3 and RA3 validations, EU officials have always kept an eye on Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport's security standards.
Following the bombing and crash of a Russian jet over Egypt's Sinai desert in October last year, the UK Department of Transport prepared a list of 38 airports of 20 countries, including that in Dhaka, which have security issues.
US OFFERS ASSISTANCE
The US yesterday offered Bangladesh assistance in ensuring “standard security” at the airports here.
The offer came during a meeting between a seven-member US team led by Alan Bersin, assistant secretary for US Department of Homeland Security, and Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon at the latter's secretariat office.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Bersin said: “The visit ...is to review the security measures Bangladesh has taken and indicates that when Bangladesh wishes to consult and seek assistance from the US, we can work together to improve security conditions.”
Bangladesh has taken steps that are necessary to improve airport security and the direction is moving in the right area, he added.
“The minister [Menon] has indicated that he wishes for a committee to be established to work together with a number of nations led by Bangladesh and that is the way we are going to address the issue,” said Bersin.
Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon said every country in the world is now under a threat that particularly concerns aviation.
The US team was not satisfied with the steps taken in the US to counter security threats as terrorists have been developing new techniques which are under constant review to find ways to tackle the threats, the minister told newsmen.
The US delegation suggested that Bangladesh should make a work plan and set a time frame for implementing the suggestions made by different countries, including the US and the UK, added Menon.
Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration, Transport Security Administration and US embassy in Dhaka were in the US delegation.
From Bangladesh side, top foreign ministry officials, newly appointed chief of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh and acting managing director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines were present.