The airport has been struggling to handle the swelling number of container cargo for the past few months as international apparel brands urged exporters to ship ordered products by air to avoid congestion at transshipment ports (sea) and to reduce delivery time
Apparel exporters expect that the container congestion at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, the largest airport in the country, will be resolved soon.
A delegation from the European Union is expected to arrive soon to validate the recently established explosive detection system (EDS) scanners which will lead to the solution of these problems, they added.
The airport has been struggling to handle the swelling number of container cargo for the past few months as international apparel brands urged exporters to ship ordered products by air to avoid congestion at transshipment ports (sea) and to reduce delivery time.
Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said: “Our buyers from Europe and the US have urged us to ship products through air freight as the demand has been increased after reopening of stores and outlets.”
He also said that from the beginning of this year, the apparel sector has been getting a lot of purchase orders.
“The BGMEA has already spoken to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) and they said that the problem is close to being solved. We expect it to be resolved quickly. If not, our sector will be affected a lot,” he added.
Azim also said that there is no space in the cargo village so the containers lie under the open sky for a couple of days, before being loaded onto the planes.
This can lead to all kinds of damages, including spoilage, fading, and unwanted staining of products.
Meanwhile, Spanish clothing retailer Pull&Bear, who sources from Bangladesh, has asked suppliers to export products via the Kolkata airport.
But the BGMEA says this will increase the costs of doing business.
Moreover, it will also ruin the image of Bangladesh, the second largest apparel exporter of the world, said Azim.
He also suggested that airports should be operated smoothly as it is one of the major aspects of ease of doing business, which buyers always keep an eye on.
Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, executive director of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, told Dhaka Tribune that the authorities are working to solve the problem.
“The problem at the airport is no longer that severe. We are very close to solving all the problems related to container congestion,” he added.
According to the exporters and airport sources, the airport does not have sufficient holding capacity and is currently handling 1.5 times more goods than usual.
They also said that the number of cargo flights has increased to 25 from the previous 15 to expedite exports.
Exporters said that due to the demands of the buyers and the significant increase in cargo shipping charge — by up to 400% in the past couple of months — have led them to opt for air freight.
But freight forwarders said shipments are facing unnecessarily delays as there are just two EDS scanners at the Dhaka airport, one of which has been out of service for a long time.
They also said that the airport has the capacity to handle 800 tonnes of cargo every day through the use of its two scanners.
But currently, the airport has to deal with more than 1,200 tonnes of dry cargo per day.
Among these products, more than 85% of the containers have apparel items, say exporters.
Nasir Ahmed Khan, director of Port and Custom – Dhaka at the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association (BAFFA), said this is the peak time for apparel exports.
“But an EDS machine is out of order. Explosive detection scanning is mandatory if we want to export goods to EU countries,” he added.
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He also said that Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided two new EDS scanner machines but installation is taking time and the scanners have not been validated by the EU yet.
“But the EU recently contacted us in this regard. Delegates are expected to arrive in Bangladesh soon to complete the validation process,” he added.
He also said that after EU validation, the airport will be able to scan and export at least 1,600-2,000 tonnes of goods daily.
However, exporters and freighters think that the ongoing construction of the third terminal at the airport and insufficient storage space in the cargo village are also slowing down exports.
Apparel exporters said stores in buyer countries have been fully operational following mass vaccination, leading to growing demand at those markets. So, the brands need early deliveries.
If the problems are prolonged and if they miss the transport deadline, exporters may incur huge losses as the current time is the peak for shipping products for Christmas and winter sales.