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Exporters annoyed by slow air shipments

Garment exporters yesterday reiterated their concerns over delays in the screening of exports from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport due to a shortage of scanning machinery.More than 300 tonnes of goods are backlogged every day due to the delay in screening at the airport, said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.Exporters send 800 tonnes to 1,000 tonnes of goods by air a day; they have to wait for a long time for screening due to the airport’s low scanning capacity.The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh introduced a new screening system at the airport after the UK banned direct air cargo from Dhaka to London.Cargo screening has slowed with the implementation of the new scanning system since Saturday, said an exporter.The screening capacity has been cut by half due to the new measures and implementation of new rules at the airport, according to the exporter.“I suggested the government purchase two more scanning machines immediately to reduce the pressure,” Rahman told The Daily Star by phone, after a meeting with Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon at the latter’s office in Dhaka.Currently, there are four machines installed at the airport to screen export goods. Of the four, two have been designated for perishable goods, which reduces the apparel screening capacity even further, he said.International apparel retailers want a timely delivery of their goods, he said. Exporters usually choose to ship goods by air mainly to meet the strict lead-time set by the international retailers, Rahman added.The exporters are penalised over prices or face work cancellations for any delay in delivery, he said. “We have shared our concerns with the minister several times before, as it is an old problem at the airport.”“We are facing troubles in air shipments as well. We need an immediate solution to the problem,” said Rahman.He also said the situation at the cargo village at the airport has not improved either, as a lot of inbound and outbound goods lay under the open sky due to a shortage of sheds.“We, from BGMEA, urged the minister to construct sheds at the airport for security of the export goods. But the minister is yet to approve the proposal.”The UK recently banned direct air cargo from Dhaka until further notice as Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport failed to meet some international security requirements.Only Biman Bangladesh Airlines carried direct cargo to the UK in its four weekly passenger flights, but it is not able to do so now due to the ban, according to officials of the national flag carrier.