The state minister for civil aviation said there will be no compromise when it comes to security at the country's airports. None will be spared if found involved in disrupting security, he said at a recent fire extinguishing drill at Chattogram's Shah Amanat International Airport,
There is no denying the fact that the country's image is related to the security of its airports. The UK in 2016 imposed a ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka to London after Biman failed to pass the safety and security tests. It withdrew the ban in February last year.
Although the government is trying to launch modern multimode surveillance system at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, the situation has not improved that much in attaining fool-proof security at the airport.
A recent report on the airport security says the radars and 12 important pieces of equipment of the airport control tower need to be either replaced or repaired as those are not working properly. It also says over 200 flights of different airlines take off and land at the airport every day amid risks as the radars and guidance system that are being used at the airport are about four decades old. As the lifetime of the two radars expired in 1994 and 1996, the authorities repaired those several times, causing a serious problem to air traffic management.
Meantime, in the wake of the terrorist attacks at a Gulshan restaurant and Sholakia in Kishoreganj, security has been beefed up in all domestic and international airports of the country to avert any untoward situation. The incident of the killing of an Ansar member by a knife-wielding attacker at the airport in 2016 raised questions about the security system of the country's busiest airport. It is a matter of grave concern that such an incident could take place somewhere as sensitive as an international airport.
Lack of satisfactory security arrangement inside the airport is, in fact, a matter of international concern. The governments of Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) banned direct cargo flights to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport due to concerns for security.
Amid concerns raised by many countries, an internationally-reputed British contractor was engaged in strengthening the security situation at the airport. It is working jointly with the Bangladesh government to ensure safety and security of transportation, scanning and screening of goods and cargoes.
Earlier, the European Union (EU) put Bangladesh on the list of high-risk countries in terms of operating cargo services by air and sea to the EU countries. More than two years have elapsed since the successive air cargo bans came from Australia, the UK and Germany, which happen to be our important destinations for readymade garments. Although Australia has lifted the ban, Europe-bound cargo is facing a curb from many other countries for alleged failure of the country to ensure proper security at the airport.
The authorities have little idea about the country losing in the cost of doing business index not just for the readymade garments (RMG) sector, but also for perishable items that use airway routes to reach their products to overseas destinations.
However, some analysts oppose screening by a third country in case of flights bound for Europe which might have added to cost for businesses. Regardless of what the authorities now claim about taking measures since the first cargo ban, they think double checking will push up the costs and make the airport unsafe, undermining the country's image globally.
Just as technical capacity is needed for this, it is also important to ensure an efficient and corruption-free administration at the airports. The issue needs to be immediately addressed for the sake of international trade, security, and image issues.