UK for three joint assessments a year

British High Commissioner in Bangladesh Alison Blake handing over the certificate on withdrawal of cargo ban to Civil Aviation Minister AKM Shahjahan Kamal. Photo: Rashidul Hasan

 

The UK government has fully withdrawn the two-year-long ban on direct cargo flights from Dhaka to London, as the British government is satisfied with the improvement of safety and security measures at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA).

AKM Shahjahan Kamal, civil aviation and tourism minister, and Alison Blake, the British high commissioner in Bangladesh, announced the decision at a press conference at the country's premier airport in Dhaka yesterday.

The decision took effect immediately, meaning all cargo flights from Dhaka can now fly directly to the UK.

But the UK transport department recommended that the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh recruit joint security experts, follow international standards and do periodic safety assessments.

Bangladesh will have to complete three joint safety assessments in a year for uninterrupted flights between Dhaka and London.

 

However, for the continuation of cargo flights into any European Union country from a third country airport, the national flag carrier must obtain the mandatory certificate called ACC3.

AM Mosaddique Ahmed, managing director of Biman, told The Daily Star that an independent auditor would work from today to this end and it might take 15 to 20 days to get the certificate.

“I am delighted to confirm that the temporary suspension on direct air cargo between Bangladesh and the UK has been lifted, following significant progress made in meeting a number of important security conditions,” Blake said in a statement.

Replying to a question at the press conference, she said the ban, placed in March 2016, was not a political decision, rather a technical one.

“We will keep monitoring the security system of HSIA as it is a continued work to keep aviation safe so that our people and the cargo continue to flow,” Blake said. 

The civil aviation minister said he expected Germany, Australia and the EU would also lift the ban, following the UK's decision.

Germany's Lufthansa, which had direct flight from Dhaka to Germany, imposed the ban on direct cargo in June 2016. Australia was the first country to impose the ban in December 2015, while the European Union did so in June last year. 

Exporters have hailed the decision as it would save them money and time.

Nurul Amin, director of Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said, “We welcome the decision. We hope that the civil aviation authorities and Biman will maintain the standards so that no country can impose such a ban.”

Every year, more than 1,200 tonnes of cargos, mainly garments, vegetables and fruits, are carried by air from Bangladesh to the UK, he said.

“During the ban, airliners charged an additional 10 cents on an average for carrying each kilogram of goods in rescreening cost in a third country. It also required an additional three days to export goods to the UK,” he added.

The decision to lift the ban will definitely bring good results as the UK is the third largest garment export destination for Bangladesh, said Siddiqur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Biman has four flights from Dhaka to London every week, each carrying 20 tonnes of cargos, he said, adding that more than 70 percent of the total volume is garment items.

Other airlines also carry goods to London, but he could not give any figure.

Biman lost $30,000 in each flight due to the ban, said Kazi Wahidul Alam, an aviation expert.

Following the decision by the UK, other countries such as Germany and Australia may also lift the ban, he added.

Following the UK's ban, Bangladesh recruited British company Redline for screening of the export goods and training the manpower in the airport safety and security.

Bangladesh installed the required number of Explosive Detection System and Explosive Detection Dog for cargo scanning to improve the safety and security.

Before the lifting of the ban, an independent team from the EU assessed the safety and security measures, and Bangladesh passed the validation test in November last year.

4G goes live today

Grameenphone's 4G Service in Bangladesh

 

The country makes the foray into fourth-generation mobile internet era today in a move that would open up a new chapter of digital connectivity and take the government's Digital Bangladesh Vision a little closer to reality.

Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink, the three largest operators, will offer the 4G service to their customers in major cities as soon as they obtain the licence from the telecom regulator in the evening.

Mobile operators said the service would enhance customers' daily life and improve the service quality of trade and business. E-education and e-health will also flourish thanks to the 4G.

“4G is monumental for Bangladesh,” said Michael Foley, chief executive officer of GP, one of the four operators due to get the licence.

“4G is a fundamental part of Bangladesh's national digital infrastructure and it will help the country move forward,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.

 

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will hand over the licences to the three operators and state-run Teletalk at a ceremony at Dhaka Club. At an event in the city's Westin hotel yesterday, market leader GP said it would launch the 4G service within 15 minutes of getting the licence. “Our 4G journey starts when we have the licence in hand, and so does the journey for many of our valued customers,” said Foley.

GP has so far replaced about one crore 4G SIMs out of its 6.5 crore connections.

The operator is focusing mainly Dhaka and some parts of Chittagong and Sylhet as part of its initial launch.

“As soon as we make any of our towers ready for the 4G, it will go live immediately. So, the network coverage will expand every hour,” said Yasir Azman, deputy CEO and chief marketing officer of GP.

Two other top operators also said they would introduce the service today.

“Within a few minutes of receiving the 4G licence, Robi will launch its 4G service,” Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, managing director and CEO of Robi, said in a statement.

A senior official of Robi, the second-largest operator, said it is going to launch the service in a good number of cities including Dhaka and Chittagong.  Last night, Robi began using technology neutrality, becoming the first operator to do so.

Tech neutrality allows operators to offer any service in any band efficiently. It also helps them cut the cost of doing business.

Banglalink is targeting large cities such as Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, and Sylhet for the launch today.

In a statement, Erik Aas, CEO of Banglalink, said the company is enthusiastically looking forward to the highly anticipated 4G launch.  “4G will take Bangladesh towards a digital future opening up innumerable possibilities,” he said. 

He said Banglalink has been playing a pioneering role in bringing change to people's lives through technology since its inception. “Tomorrow [Monday] we will go one step closer to our vision of building a truly digital Bangladesh.”

Teletalk, however, will not go for the 4G service immediately even if it gets the licence as its network is not ready yet. The state-run operator deposited Tk 10 crore for the 4G licence to the BTRC.

A senior official of the company said it would take a couple of months for Teletalk to launch the service.

Yesterday, GP introduced two 4G-enabled co-branded smartphones: WE T1 and Micromax Canvas 1. WE T1 is priced at Tk 4,444 and Micromax Canvas-1 Tk 7,599.

Speaking at the event, the GP CEO said it strives to provide customers the best experience on the best technology and product. “It is our intention to provide the best 4G experience to our customers on the most affordable handsets. 4G can be a game changer for many data users. For customers to get the best experience on our network they will need the right smartphones.”

Foley said GP's 4G network would cover the whole country faster than it took in case of the 3G rollout. “Customers will be happy with our service.”

Brigadier General Md Nasim Parvez, director general of the BTRC's spectrum management division, Syed Farhad Ahmed, managing director of Aamra Holdings Ltd, and Vikas Jain, co-founder of Micromax Informatics Ltd, also spoke on the occasion.

BNP moves to unite grassroots

BNP activist

A policeman grabs a BNP activist by the collar in front of the Dhaka Deputy Commissioner's office yesterday morning. A group of activists was going to submit a memorandum to the DC demanding release of the party Chairperson Khaleda Zia, but police dispersed them. Photo: Collected

 

The BNP central leaders will start grassroots tour tomorrow and hold a series of meetings in efforts to keep intact the organisational unity as they fear the government is out to split the party ahead of the next parliamentary election.

They will sit with the district and upazila units to ask party men to keep unity at any cost and not to make any reckless decisions, engage in violence and fall into government's trap, said insiders.   

The central leaders will also talk to the relatives of the party members now behind bars and will discuss the legal issues.

A number of party leaders said they will also ask the grassroots to counter the government campaign to portray the Zia family as corrupt people.

Already, some of the central leaders have gone to some districts while the rest will join the party's demonstrations in all the district towns and metropolitan cities, except for Dhaka, on Tuesday.

 

“The presence of central leaders in districts will certainly be a great morale booster for grassroots activists,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told The Daily Star.

After BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia landed in jail in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on February 8, this will be the first large-scale organisational tour by central leaders.

Instructed by party's acting chairman Tarique Rahman, Fakhrul will coordinate the whole programme from Dhaka, sources say.

There are 81 organisational districts of the party and the central leaders will go to those districts on February 20 to participate in demonstrations demanding release of Khaleda.

“When a central leader visits a district, the grassroots leaders are morally boosted. The central leaders will ask the grassroots to keep patience and unity and not to make any reckless decisions and fall into the government trap,” Barkat Ullah Bulu, told The Daily Star.

He also said the grassroots leaders and activists will be directed to counter the government propaganda in a peaceful and democratic way.

Nazrul Islam Khan, party's standing committee member, said following the directives of Tarique Rahman, the central leaders will talk to the family members of the detained leaders and will provide them with legal assistance if needed.

Around 78,000 cases have been filed against over 7.5 lakh BNP leaders and activists in last nine years, party sources claimed.

More than 4,725 party leaders and activists were arrested across the country since January 30 till February 17, they added.

Since the verdict against Khaleda, senior leaders of the party have been sitting every day with various professional bodies and maintaining ties with the diplomats.

Tarique Rahman is keeping in touch with top party men and issuing important decisions whenever it is needed. He also talked with various professional leaders, lawyers and intellectuals through teleconferencing.

The BNP has also been staging various protest programmes, except for shutdowns and blockade.

It observed a token hunger strike on Wednesday, formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club on Monday and staged a sit-in before the party's Nayapaltan central office on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the Dhaka district unit of the party submitted a memorandum to Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka district Mohammad Salah Uddin demanding release of Khaleda.

The party men also brought out a procession after coming out of the DC office.

In another development, Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of Special Judge Court-5 in Dhaka assured the lawyers of providing them with the copy of the Zia orphanage verdict today after they asked about it.

Meanwhile, the Special Judge Court-2 asked Khaleda and 14 other accused to appear before it on March 25 in connection with Barapukuria coal mine graft case.

Kahleda was not produced before the court yesterday though it was the date for the hearing in Barapukuria case. She was on bail and her lawyer represented her.

UK lifts air cargo ban on Dhaka-London route

British High Commissioner in Bangladesh Alison Blake handing over the certificate on withdrawal of cargo ban to Civil Aviation Minister AKM Shahjahan Kamal. Photo: Rashidul Hasan

 

The UK government has withdrawn the ban on Dhaka-London direct air cargo, two years after the authorities imposed an embargo on it citing poor security at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

The announcement was made this afternoon at a press conference jointly organised by the UK High Commission in Dhaka and Bangladesh's civil aviation ministry.

Civil Aviation Minister AKM Shahjahan Kamal and British High Commissioner in Bangladesh Alison Blake addressed the press conference at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport's (HSIA) conference room.

From today any airlines except Biman will be able to carry direct cargo flight to UK. But Biman will have to wait to get the certificate of “air cargo or main carrier operating into the union from a third country airport (ACC3)”.

Biman Managing Director and CEO AM Mosaddique Ahmed, at the briefing, said it may take 15 to 20 days to get the certificate.

Suspension on the direct cargo flight was not a political matter, it was a technical thing, said British High Commissioner in Bangladesh Alison Blake.

 

“It’s a major achievement that you have transformed in the cargo handling and created a condition that we are very satisfied with,” she said.

The lifting of the suspension comes as a result of ongoing cooperation between the UK and Bangladesh and the joint assessment of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, she added.

On March 8, 2016, the UK government imposed the ban following a failure of Dhaka airport to meet some international security requirements.

The European Union, where more than 54 percent of Bangladesh's exports are headed, also declared the airport a “red zone” due to insufficient safety and security measures, following the lead of the UK, Australia and Germany.

Officials at the civil aviation ministry and Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) hope that the EU, Australia and Germany would follow the UK’s decision.

With the ban in place, the EU-bound cargo airlines from Bangladesh have to rescreen goods in a third country, preferably in Dubai, Qatar, Thailand or India.

The ban caused a huge loss for Bangladesh.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines incurred a loss of over Tk 100 crore last year due to the ban, Biman sources said.

Biman was the only carrier that operated direct cargo flights between Dhaka and London.

Before the ban, it used to earn Tk 40 lakh to Tk 50 lakh for each flight from carrying cargoes. Some 25 to 30 tonnes of goods, mostly apparel and vegetables, were shipped in each flight.

After the ban was imposed, the Bangladesh government appointed British company Redline Aviation Security Limited Seven to meet the safety requirements at the airport.

Bangladesh in the last two years made various other efforts to have the ban gone.

BNP won't contest in polls with Khaleda in jail: Rizvi

BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed

While addressing a press conference at the party's Nayapaltan central office in Dhaka BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed on February 18, 2018, says that his party will not participate in the upcoming general election keeping its Chairperson Khaleda Zia in jail. Photo: Courtesy

 

BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Rizvi Ahmed today said that his party will not participate in the upcoming general election keeping its Chairperson Khaleda Zia in jail.

"No election will be held without Khaleda Zia. The plot to hold the next election by keeping Khaleda in jail will go in vain," Rizvi said while addressing a press conference at the party's Nayapaltan central office in Dhaka this noon.

While talking to reporters in Feni yesterday, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said BNP will certainly take part in the upcoming general election though its chairperson Khaldela Zia may not join it for her conviction.

Rejecting Quader's claim outright, Rizvi said that Khaleda Zia is the sole inspiration of BNP men and they will not participate in the next general election without her.

Rizvi also criticised Quader for making such hypothetical remarks and raised a question from where he (Quader) gets such messages.

"It seems to me that Quader is playing a role of general secretary of the ruling Awami League. He is, at the same time, also a policymaker of BNP," he added.

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