Published in the Daily Star on 29, August 2017
Exporters are facing serious challenges in making shipments from the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport as many airlines have slashed their cargo transport capacity.
For instance, Etihad Airways reduced the number of its cargo flights in a week from six to three, and Oman Air, which used to transport 120 tonnes of cargoes by way of three flights in a week, has stopped carrying cargo altogether.
As a result, at least 300 tonnes of cargoes, especially apparel items, get left behind at the airport cargo village every day.
The cargo congestion has magnified as many exporters are now trying to send their consignments through air shipments after failing to send those through the Chittagong port, which is in a similar situation too for breakdown of two of its gantry cranes.
“The situation has turned so worse that now the exporters are not getting the express services even after paying 30 percent higher rates of the airlines,” said Nurul Islam, a director of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association.
Due to the additional step the airlines have hiked their rates.
Now, the airlines charge between $2.65 and $2.70 for carrying a kilogram of goods from Dhaka to any destination in the EU, which was $1.70 and $1.80 even two months ago, according to Islam, also the managing director of Tower Freight Logistics Limited.
Rashed Khan Menon, the civil aviation and tourism minister, said: “The cargo congestion at the airport is not known to me. I cannot comment on the issue without knowing the details.”
Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, however, said the situation at the airport is improving gradually.
“The garment exporters are facing less hassles now as there is a separate shed for us at the cargo village,” he added.
Exporters take 1,000 tonnes of goods to the airport a day, of which nearly 700 tonnes are apparel items, industry insiders said. The EU, where more than 54 percent of Bangladesh’s exports are headed, has declared the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport a ‘red zone’ due to insufficient safety and security measures, following the lead of the UK, Australia and Germany.