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Bangladeshi exporters are reeling from Germany’s decision to restrict direct air cargo imports from the country, while its main seaport, Chittagong, continues to battle severe congestion.
On Sunday, after a ban was imposed, Lufthansa was forced to leave up to 60 tons of garments in Dhaka, and the exporters had to take the shipments back to the factories. With the Eid holiday coming up in July, garment makers were geared up for additional exports.
Germany is Bangladesh’s second largest export market, valued at $5.11bn in 2014, just shy of the $5.23bn market to the US. Some 95% of Bangladesh’s exports are related to the garment trade.
Germany is the third country, after Australia and the UK, to put an air freight export ban in place on Bangladesh, citing security concerns at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The Federal Aviation Authority of Germany said in a notice that “because of information provided by our law enforcement authority and intelligence services” all cargoes and mail consignments originating from Bangladesh “pose a risk to aviation security”. However, a spokesman for Lufthansa Cargo said that cargo can now fly if it has gone through additional security clearances at the airport, but it wasn’t able to re-screen cargo on Sunday’s flight.
A team of German aviation security experts were due to arrive in Dhaka today.
In March, Bangladesh’s CAA awarded a two-year, $9.34m contract to UK security firm Redline Aviation Security to upgrade systems and procedures at the airport, following UK CAA warnings. A statement from the UK DoT said at the time: “Recent security assessments of Dhaka International Airport found that some international security requirements were not being met. As part of a set of interim measures, cargo will not be allowed on direct flights from Dhaka to the UK until further notice.”
Redline said it would send a near 40-strong team to man screening points at the air cargo complex and train local staff. Clearly, however, any improvements did not come fast enough for Germany. Redline was unavailable for comment.
Lufthansa operates a weekly 777 freighter flight out of Dhaka, to Frankfurt via Delhi. A spokesman for the carrier said: “After assessing security-related information, the German Federal Aviation Authority (LBA) imposed tighter security measures for Bangladesh last Friday.
“With immediate effect, all cargo destined for or transiting through Germany must now undergo further scanning. As a result of this decision, the handling service provider at Dhaka Airport is obliged to screen every item of cargo a second time from now on. We are working very hard to minimise the impact on our customers.”
The new ban also allows for re-screening air cargo at a third country before arrival in Germany. Australia and the UK also allow Bangladeshi cargo to be screened elsewhere before arriving. IAG uses a Qatar Airways service to import from Bangladesh, via Doha.
Meanwhile, JOC reported yesterday that shipper and shipping lines were struggling to cope with heavy congestion at Chittagong, the country’s main gateway port, putting further pressure on the country’s export market.