It has been nearly two years since the UK slapped a ban on direct cargo flights between Dhaka and London citing security concerns.
Despite Bangladesh’s efforts to sort out the issues, the embargo remains in place and it is unclear when it will be finally lifted. The ban has been inflicting huge financial losses on Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
Officials in Dhaka hoped that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson would bring with him the much-coveted news of the ban’s end.
“The senior officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism were prepared to hold a press briefing on cargo ban withdrawal,” said Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman, the ministry’s public relation officer.
“They were also prepared to attend the meeting at State Guest House Padma while Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali and Johnson talked over the issue last Friday,” he added.
But Johnson did not make any announcement on withdrawing the ban.
“It is all but done... Bangladesh government has made huge effort to sort out the issue and we are pleased to note the progress. We are on the verge of resumption of the direct cargo flight,” the British foreign secretary said.
Civil Aviation Ministry Joint Secretary Habibur Rahman said they were not sure why the UK was not resolving the matter.
“We do not know when the cargo ban will be withdrawn,” said Air Vice Marshal M Naim Hassan, chairman, Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh, hinting that the issue could be sorted out within a short time.
The UK banned direct air cargo shipment from Dhaka to London in March 2016 citing security reasons.
Bangladesh took a number of steps to address the security issue to rescind the ban. It appointed British security firm Redline to upgrade the security system at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Several teams from the UK have visited the airport to observe the security system. A three-member team paid a visit from November 22 to 27 last year.
Former civil aviation minister Rashed Khan Menon told the media in December last year that they had informed the UK authorities about the improvement of the security system during his visit there.
Since the ban, Bangladeshi businessmen have to export products to the UK after taking a transit at Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand or Dubai, making the process more costly.
Biman earned Tk315cr in 2015-16FY but it went gone down to Tk244 in 2016-17FY. It earned a profit of Tk235 in 2015-16FY but the amount had come down to Tk47cr in last fiscal year due to the cargo flight ban.