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Govt delays decision on CAAB's proposal to upgrade its capability

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Govt delays decision on CAAB's proposal to upgrade its capability





Dhaka : The presence of makeshift security system with no united command is exposing civil aviation of Bangladesh to threat. But the government is taking unusually long time_ nearly two years_ to take decision on the CAAB proposal to upgrade capability of the organisation and creation of elite security force, disregarding ICAO recommendation.

With ever increasing millions flying around for various reasons, airports are becoming busier and airlines and airports throughout the world have become important elements of the process of globalisation. Air travel has become one of the major advances of the modern age. It has also generated new threats for the users of increasingly crowded airports.

Understanding the threat
There exists various kinds and levels of threats to civil aviation both locally and globally. Evolving threats include damage to airports and aircraft facilities, cyber-attacks on aviation systems, narcotics and drug trafficking, smuggling of unauthorised goods and criminals and so on. All these point to being serious and earnest in tackling the issue of aviation security and to implement strict risk reduction measures.

Passengers and baggage are not the only sources of threats to commercial aviation security. Threats can also come from the many processes that support an airport and the passengers and aircraft it serves: air cargo, catering, maintenance, cleaning, ticketing, baggage handling, air traffic control, retail, food services, parking, car rental and others.

The airports employ numerous members of staff to deal with all kinds of areas within the airport. Many large airports are like little towns with their own restaurants, shops, luggage counters, children's activity areas, ticket booking counters and much more. With the hive of activity at all airports, there must be policing of some kind. This is where the airport security comes in.

Existing situation
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) the gateway to Bangladesh by air and considered as the country's window to the world, has become a happy hunting ground for criminal activities_ both by insiders and outsiders.

The nature of criminal activities is many and varied and these are being indulged in isolation or in collaboration betwe-en the two major groups_ a section of officials (insiders) and racketeers (outsiders).

There are more than a dozen government agencies including a number of intelligence and security agencies are stationed at HSIA. Yet criminal activities in and around the airport have gone up much beyond the tolerable limit.

Now there is hardly any safe point for travellers_ both incoming and outgoing_ where one can relax and lower his or her guard against these racketeers. Migrant workers with little or no education who constitute the majority of passenger traffic are the main targets and they are in fact, the easy prey. Though no one is safe, these unfortunate people are to cross the hurdle of criminal intentions at all the stages of airport formalities_ arriving and departing.

While coming
The incidents of pilferage of baggage before putting those on the conveyor belt have become a regular feature at HSIA. There is hardly any day when no such incident happens. So, one normally consider his or herself to get the checked-in luggage in good shape and intact.

After the luggage, come another tough hurdle. Despite introduction of Red and Green channels, Customs officials are still inclined to physically check baggage of most of the incoming passengers_ particularly those of expatriate workers.

Frying pan to fire
However, a bigger trouble awaits a passenger, once he or she is out of Customs enclave. Like vultures on dead animal, an unrestricted number of cross section of racketeers_ in the name of finding transport and helping with luggage trolley_ try to make their kill. Most of the passengers find themselves surrounded by unwelcome group of people_ all of whom with different objective. They have one thing in common_ to cheat the passenger.

The lawlessness at HSIA has been there for fairly long, but there have not been any effective measures to curb the criminal activities. The parking lot at HSIA has become the centre of unlawful activities like extortion, cheating and pilferage. This is the operating centre of thugs from outside.

While going
The departing passengers at HSIA on the other hand face different kind of problem. Most of the victims, however, are migrant workers moving from Dhaka to different countries. Taking the advantage of their ignorance of rules and regulations and their low level of education, a section of Immigration, Customs and Security officials tries to create such a situation where the victim ifs forced to negotiate to continue the journey. To get some unlawful financial gain is the objective of the entire exercise.

The existing situation at HSIA is nothing but anarchical. This is free for all and the extent of corruption, misuse of power for financial gain and lawlessness inside the airport building and as well as outside has exceeded all imaginable limits.

Makeshift security system
While airports all over the world have beefed up security system, the aviation security system in Bangladesh still remains no better than makeshift. There is great scope for improvement in both equipment and manpower aspects of aviation security.

One must understand that until human factors are considered in the design of airport security jobs, technological responses to security breaches will fail to achieve their desired end. In Bangladesh, the human factor is the weakest area of the system. The weakness is in both quality and quantity.

The composition of the manpower engaged in providing aviation security will show vulnerability of the existing system. Most of these people have come not only from non-aviation background, but also professionally not competent to provide dependable security. At present about 3,150 persons belonging to three government agencies_ CAAB-1050, Ansar-1000 and Armed Police Battalion-1100_ are involved in providing security to airports in Bangladesh.

The CAAB personnel are divided into two categories_ permanent and daily basis. It is strange that security personnel recruited on 'daily basis' serve CAAB till retirement age like permanent staff.

Moreover, most of its officer is loaned from other specialised fields such as air traffic control, aerodrome traffic service' communications etc. The pre-sent system of selecting officers for security duties is unable to develop expertise and specialisation in aviation security.

The Ansars come on temporary basis and their tenure of duty with CAAB varies from 1 to 3 years. They perform their duties under the direction and control of CAAB authority and paid from the CAAB payroll.

APB was introduced for strengthening the security of HSIA in the wake of a number of bomb threats, and warning of terrorist attacks. Their role is similar to that of Ansars in providing physical security to installations. APB employment at HSIA is on temporary basis, they are not paid from the CAAB payroll.

Though CAAB oversees the security functions of the different security agencies, at times, complexities arise in tackling situations where control over other agencies becomes difficult for lack of unified command and control arrangement as Ansars and APB remain under the command of their own respective services.

All will agree that security duties at airports require highly specialised and trained personnel. Moreover, security personnel in such sensitive places need rigorous training, continuous sharpening of updated skills. Ansars and APB personnel are employed on a temporary basis for a short period of one year to maximum three years. They come from totally different background.

On the other hand, half of the CAAB personnel are on daily basis and their recruitment is subjected to political and other influences.

With such mixed employment with diverse agencies, it is almost impossible to ensure multi-dimensional security functions in a sensitive area in general and terminal and airside areas in particular.

In a situation like this, it is not difficult to understand that existing civil aviation security system is weak and not suitable in the current global security scenario.

ICAO initiative
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is the leader in aviation security. It underscores the need to examine security from a holistic point of view and adopt measures that conform to an action plan which is comprehensive and pro-active.

The current Aviation Security Plan of Action was approved in 2002 as a central element of ICAO's strategy to strengthen aviation security worldwide. The key elements of the Plan of Action may now be regarded as the framework with which member-should move forward in challenging risks posed by existing and new threats.

Time to act
In the context of global situation, time has come to act urgently, for a comprehensive security approach to civil aviation as per ICAO requirements. The goal of new aviation security is to be to prevent harm to aircraft, passengers and all other airport users as well as support national security.

So, manpower of the new system must be trained and capable enough to protect aircraft and airport from attacks and crimes and to reassure the travelling public that they are safe.

At present, the chances of weapons or bombs and various other kinds of harmful devices getting on to aircraft are great. Airports in Bangladesh are highly vulnerable.

Delay in govt action
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) under the leadership of Air Vice Marshall Mahmud Hussein, initiated measures to upgrade the capability of the organisation with new organogram and manpower and replace the makeshift existing aviation security system by a professionally sound integrated one, with focus upon aviation security as a highly specialised and technical field of operation.

It may be mentioned that since the creation of CAAB in 1985, the number of airports and operational work have increased three to four folds, but manpower has not been increased. To keep up the pace with growing international civil aviation, there is no alternative but to equip CAAB with adequate and qualified manpower and proper equipment.

In February 2012, CAAB submitted a proposal with new organogram and creation of elite security force to Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism (MOCAT). From existing 3,716, the manpower was proposed to increase to 13,776. After many meetings MOCAT reduced the number of manpower and fixed it to 10,694. Of the total manpower, 2106 for the security in place of existing regular security force of 911.

The CAAB had to submit document afresh in July 2013 to MOACT. From MOCAT the proposal of CAAB moved to Ministry of Public Administration (formerly Establishment) in early September. A decision on the proposal even after ICAO recommendation is still waiting.

A programme coordinator and senior aviation security advisor of ICAO while inspecting aviation security of the country (Bangladesh) in October-November 2012, examined the CAAB's proposal concerning creation of an elite force and recommended that "Government of Bangladesh approves as soon as possible, the structure and staffing proposal for the Aviation Security Force, including the Headquarters element".

Courtesy- The Bangladesh Monitor