Vol. 5 Num 111 Mon. September 13, 2004  

Private cargo operators fly high
Record 108pc growth on efficient services

With cargo operations of the national flag carrier, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, and foreign airlines remaining stagnant, private cargo carriers have recorded an impressive growth over 100 percent on efficient services.

Inspired by the success, private cargo airlines are planning massive expansion both on international and domestic fronts. Overall, the country's air cargo industry saw 16.47 percent growth in the last fiscal year.

MA Mannan, managing director of cargo carrier Bismillah Airlines Ltd, said, "As private operators offer quality and express service, exporters now rely on us. My company plans to procure one more chartered aircraft for the next season that begins in February."

Bismillah Airlines currently has one plane for international and two for domestic freight service.

"The Tk 800 crore-Tk 1,000 crore air cargo industry can solve the lead time problem and become affordable for exporters if the government reduces ground handling and parking charges at airports," Mannan said.

Best Aviation Ltd, which specialises in domestic air cargo market carrying shrimp fries from Cox's Bazar to Jessore, has now planned to make foray into international cargo business.

"We will start a cargo flight from September 18 on Chittagong-Middle East destinations. The 40,000kg capacity flight will fly twice a week and put emphasis on vegetable cargo to the Middle East," said M Haideruzzaman, managing director of the company.

"We will also use our domestic flights to bring vegetables from Jessore to Chittagong to finally send those to the Middle East," he added.

Another private cargo carrier Air Bangladesh has already procured a Boeing 747 aircraft for cargo operation. The 110-ton capacity plane, now in registration process with Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, is expected to go into international cargo operation from next week.

"According to our agreement with an American company we will procure another Boeing 747 and the plane will come to Dhaka early next month. We are bringing in big airliners to meet rapidly growing demand," said Md Shahjalal Mazumder, chairman of Air Bangladesh.

Moin Rashid, chairman and CEO of Z-Airways Services Ltd, said, "We want to go for further expansion but high ground handling and parking charges deter us. We cannot reduce freightage to make it more affordable due to the high airport charges."

Biman, 16 foreign airlines and five local private airlines carried 99,000 tons of cargo in the last fiscal year against 85,000 tons in the previous fiscal.

Private operators carried alone around 24,000 tons international cargo in 2003-2004 up from 2002-2003 fiscal's figure of 11,500 tons, witnessing a staggering 108 percent growth.

Biman carried only 28,419 tons, a barely 200 tons up from the previous fiscal. Foreign airlines also followed suit of Biman seeing insignificant growth. The 16 foreign airlines carried 46,898 tons, which was 45,281 tons in previous fiscal.

A high official of Biman Cargo Village said as Biman only uses unoccupied space in its passenger flights to carry cargo, its growth is nominal. Biman has no dedicated cargo aircraft, he said.

The private air cargo operators also carry shrimp fries from Cox's Bazar to Jessore. During the breeding season between January and June, the carriers carry about 80,000 tons of shrimp fries.