Biman Bangladesh Airlines is conducting a feasibility study on its freighter operation, a senior Biman official said.
A five-member committee, formed on December 12 last, has been assigned to do the job and submit a detailed report within a month.
The move was made following the instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on December 05 during her inspection of second Boeing 787 Dreamliner Hangshabalaka.
She asked the Biman authorities to take necessary steps to add freighters to the Biman fleet for carrying cargo.
"A committee has been formed recently to assess the potential of the cargo market for Biman. They are expected to submit the detailed report within a month," said Biman managing director AM Mosaddique Ahmed.
The Biman authorities will take the next course of action based on the report, he told the FE.
Experts, however, said there is a Tk 30-billion cargo market in Bangladesh of which Biman carries only 10 per cent.
The remaining 90 per cent cargo is carried by the cargo freighters of foreign airlines, including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, China Eastern, Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines.
Biman earned Tk 3.15 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2015-16 which shrank to Tk 2.50 billion in FY 2016-17.
It did not pay attention to this highly profitable sector over the years allegedly due to corruption, inefficiency and lack of farsightedness to make the state carrier viable, they added.
The committee will look into the areas like market potential for freighter operation, profitable routes, manpower, equipment and operating cost, said Biman general manager (public relations) Shakil Manager.
Over 600 tonnes of export cargo leave and 500 tonnes of import cargo arrive per day in Bangladesh, but most of which are carried by foreign freighters, he added.
About Biman's failure to launch a freighter service over the years, aviation expert Kazi Wahidul Alam said passenger traffic did not increase in proportion to its capacity.
Biman's international route network is mainly based in Middle East and London. They do not have any partnership, interline agreement or code sharing with other foreign freighters, he added.
Mr Alam said the state carrier's international route network has declined over the past 10 years for lack of a comprehensive plan.
It seems the Biman neither has this type of thought in its action plan, nor it has expertise to operate a separate cargo division, he mentioned.
According to experts, Biman has an opportunity to operate at least two daily cargo flights to Far East destinations or carry goods under transshipment through partnership agreement on the regional routes.
When asked, the Biman MD said a networking is required to operate cargo service which Biman does not have at this moment.
Biman operates point-to-point destinations which is not viable for freighter operation, he added.
"We had that type of situation a couple of years back. Now the situation has changed," Mr Ahmed told the FE.
Biman now has 15 aircraft in its fleet to carry both passengers and cargo.
But there is widespread allegation that the authorities are reluctant to introduce freighter service as they have developed an "unholy nexus with foreign carriers".
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