The third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, which is expected to enhance the airport's export cargo handling three times, expand cold storage facilities and reduce lead time, will boost the country's agricultural exports.
The airport currently has an export cargo handling capacity of around 2 lakh tonnes per annum, which will increase to around 5.47 lakh tonnes once the third terminal goes fully operational.
On the other hand, three-category cold storage facilities, ranging 396.15 square metres with a capacity of around 4,000 tonnes in the new export cargo complex, will help preserve fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and other items.
Agri exporters say currently there is a demand for 500-800 tonnes of cold storage space per day. With growing international demand for fresh Bangladeshi agricultural products, this demand is projected to increase to 3,000-4,000 tonnes within the next five years.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will partially inaugurate the third terminal on 7 October. It will be fully operational in December 2024.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director (marketing) of Pran-RFL Group, a processed agricultural products exporter, told The Business Standard that the third terminal will increase import-export cargo handling capacity by 2.5-3 times, helping to boost fresh agricultural exports.
He also noted that ground handling charges for the third terminal have not yet been finalised, and that these charges are higher in Bangladesh than in other countries. He argued that it would be logical to set these charges in line with competing countries.
According to the Bangladesh Fruits, Vegetables and Allied Products Exporters Association, Bangladesh exported a record 1.24 lakh tonnes of fresh vegetables and fruits in FY 2013-14, the highest ever. Last fiscal year, exports fell to 62,000 tonnes.
Exports have picked up in the first two months of the current financial year, reaching 32,000 tonnes. This trend is expected to continue in the coming months, Md Monjurul Islam, advisor of the association, said.
According to a report by the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) currently has a 420-square-metre cold storage facility in the area adjacent to the existing export cargo terminal building at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The Civil Aviation Authority has appointed a consultant for the construction of a separate warehouse adjacent to the export cargo terminal building on BADC land.
As per Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, the import-export cargo complex under construction at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport will be equipped with an automated system and feasibility studies are underway for three new sheds.
A scanning machine for exportable agricultural produce has also been installed at the airport, and the road adjacent to the export cargo area is being widened.
According to the ministry, about 60% of all cargo transported by air from Bangladesh is by passenger aircraft. The remaining 40% of goods are transported on exclusive cargo flights.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines transported 10,322 tonnes of agricultural produce and 10,936 tonnes of other goods for export purposes in 2022-23 FY. It has a competitive advantage in transporting agricultural products because its air fares are lower than foreign airlines.
The Civil Aviation Ministry says that it is adding more facilities in order to increase the export of agricultural products through Osmani International Airport, Sylhet and Shah Amanat International Airport, Chattogram too.
90% to be completed before soft opening
Regarding the progress of work, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said on Monday, "Our target was to complete 90% of the work before the soft opening. At present, it stands at over 88%. We are optimistic about completing 90% of the work before the soft opening of the third terminal."
"We hope the terminal will be fully operational before the scheduled time," he added.
He noted that the third terminal will change the country's image through world-class passenger services.
In addition to improving cargo and cold storage facilities, the third terminal will also increase the number of flights at the airport, as it will be able to handle up to 1.20 crore passengers annually.
The new terminal will come with a baggage handling system, an arrival lounge, a duty-free shop and boarding bridges, according to CAAB.
There will be two rapid exit taxiways covering 41,500 square metres to allow an aircraft to leave the runway quickly after landing. It will allow other aircraft to use the taxiway for take-off or landing.
In the new terminal, the larger lounge for transit passengers will serve 40,00,000 passengers annually.
The construction of the Tk21,300-crore project began in December 2019.
The two terminals of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport currently handle around 150 flights of 30 airlines while serving about 25,000 to 30,000 passengers on a daily basis.