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Satisfied with the improvement of security standards, Australia has lifted its five-year ban on direct cargo flights from Bangladesh.

It’s a long-awaited measure applauded by top exporters, after the country, with several others including the UK and EU, imposed the ban in December 2015, citing inadequate security at Bangladeshi airports.

The Australian High Commissioner in Dhaka, Jeremy Bruer, yesterday told Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh chairman Mafidur Rahman an amendment to the policy was underway.

Bangladeshi traders have hailed the decision to lift the ban. President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Dr Rubana Huq told The Loadstar: “The latest withdrawal of cargo restrictions will definitely boost business to a considerable extent.”

She said Bangladesh’s apparel exports to Australia had been growing steadily during the past 10 years. According to the association, they stood at $692m in 2019 – declining to $632m last year, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An Australian delegation visited Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in March 2019. The delegation members were satisfied with the measures taken to ensure that export cargo was flown with international standard security checks.

The ban forced Bangladeshi air cargo to go through a third country for screening, adding cost and time to shipments and forcing Bangladeshi authorities to raise security standards.

In early 2016, UK company Redline Assured Security was hired to screen export cargo and train manpower to enhance the security standards in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, a number of explosive detection systems were installed at the cargo village and trained dogs were introduced.

Civil aviation officials said they had had taken “significant steps, such as organisational structure, training of security personnel, installation of modern ECAC-certified screening equipment, augmentation of internal quality assurance activities and national level quality control activities”.

However, the scanning machines at the airport broke down last year, causing significant delays to shipments as the airport waited for replacement parts.

The UK lifted its ban in 2018, but the EU has yet to remove Bangladeshi air cargo and mail consignments from its “high-risk” category, and air cargo from Dhaka remains subject to additional screening from a third country such as Qatar, UAE, or Thailand to reach European destinations.

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