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Tightened Security in Bangladesh After UK Cargo Ban Causes Export Delays

Bangladesh got its hand slapped by the U.K. last month when the country banned all cargo on direct flights between the two countries because of unmet security measures, and now a backlog of apparel slated for export is causing customer delays.

The U.K. government said in a succinct statement early in March that, “Recent security assessments of Dhaka International Airport found that some international security requirements were not being met,” and that the cargo ban would be in effect “until further notice.”

According to observations, U.K. authorities said there was a lapse in 80 percent of cargo security in the Dhaka Airport, with cargo left unprotected, unsupervised and not properly screened for things like explosives.

Bangladesh’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) awarded a 732 million taka ($9.3 million) contract to UK firm Redline Aviation Security to upgrade the airport’s security screening procedures and equipment, and the takeover has fueled delays.

In a message to customers late last month, New York-based global supply chain solutions provider Apex Logistics said Redline is training Bangladesh staff on security control and cargo is being scanned carton by carton. It’s taking trucks three-quarters of the day just to get onto the airport premises and it’s not apparent when those delays will let up.

It’s also not yet clear when the UK will lift the cargo ban.

Updating the situation Thursday, Apex said the current screening process at the airport has become so lengthy that exporters can’t ship their goods even if they report seven hours before a scheduled flight.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) reportedly said there is a backlog of no less than 300 tons of apparel every day. Imports have been equally hampered and have ended up piled high in open air with the BGMEA constructing a shed to protect the goods.

One official at a big cargo handling company, who requested anonymity, said the backlog is substantial and that only goods for big companies are being shipped on the flights, while goods destined for mid-size and small apparel companies have been largely left behind. If the situation persists, he said, his company won’t be able to sustain the damage.

There seems to be little more tangible than hope that the ban will be lifted soon as no one can peg a date and Redline has reportedly declined media statements.

A report from British certification company BCC is expected following inspections of Bangladesh’s cargo complexes, and the decision to lift the ban could depend on that report.