The UK government has fully withdrawn the two-year-long ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka to London, as the British government is satisfied with the improvement of safety and security measures at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA).
AKM Shahjahan Kamal, civil aviation and tourism minister, and Alison Blake, the British high commissioner in Bangladesh, announced the decision at a press conference at the country's premier airport in Dhaka yesterday.
The decision took effect immediately, meaning all cargo flights from Dhaka can now fly directly to the UK.
But the UK transport department recommended that the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh recruit joint security experts, follow international standards and do periodic safety assessments.
Bangladesh will have to complete three joint safety assessments in a year for uninterrupted flights between Dhaka and London.
However, for the continuation of cargo flights into any European Union country from a third country airport, the national flag carrier must obtain the mandatory certificate called ACC3.
AM Mosaddique Ahmed, managing director of Biman, told The Daily Star that an independent auditor would work from today to this end and it might take 15 to 20 days to get the certificate.
“I am 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,” Blake said in a statement.
Replying to a question at the press conference, she said the ban, placed in March 2016, was not a political decision, rather a technical one.
“We will keep monitoring the security system of HSIA as it is a continued work to keep aviation safe so that our people and the cargo continue to flow,” Blake said.
The civil aviation minister said he expected Germany, Australia and the EU would also lift the ban, following the UK's decision.
Germany's Lufthansa, which had direct flight from Dhaka to Germany, imposed the ban on direct cargo in June 2016. Australia was the first country to impose the ban in December 2015, while the European Union did so in June last year.
Exporters have hailed the decision as it would save them money and time.
Nurul Amin, director of Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said, “We welcome the decision. We hope that the civil aviation authorities and Biman will maintain the standards so that no country can impose such a ban.”
Every year, more than 1,200 tonnes of cargos, mainly garments, vegetables and fruits, are carried by air from Bangladesh to the UK, he said.
“During the ban, airliners charged an additional 10 cents on an average for carrying each kilogram of goods in rescreening cost in a third country. It also required an additional three days to export goods to the UK,” he added.
The decision to lift the ban will definitely bring good results as the UK is the third largest garment export destination for Bangladesh, said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Biman has four flights from Dhaka to London every week, each carrying 20 tonnes of cargos, he said, adding that more than 70 percent of the total volume is garment items.
Other airlines also carry goods to London, but he could not give any figure.
Biman lost $30,000 in each flight due to the ban, said Kazi Wahidul Alam, an aviation expert.
Following the decision by the UK, other countries such as Germany and Australia may also lift the ban, he added.
Following the UK's ban, Bangladesh recruited British company Redline for screening of the export goods and training the manpower in the airport safety and security.
Bangladesh installed the required number of Explosive Detection System and Explosive Detection Dog for cargo scanning to improve the safety and security.
Before the lifting of the ban, an independent team from the EU assessed the safety and security measures, and Bangladesh passed the validation test in November last year.