Nearly eight months after it went international, the Visakhapatnam Airport is not yet ready for international cargo exports. Red-tape is said to be coming in the way of airport development and unless something is done on a war-footing the development of the region will remain a cry in the wild.

Undue delay

The undue delay in commencement of round-the-clock operations and lack of facilities for export of international cargo is making new international airline operators as also cargo exporters to shy away from the airport.

There is a huge demand for air exports from the city.

The location of two ports – Visakhapatnam Port Trust and Gangavaram Port – in the city and two other ports at Kakinada indicate the tremendous export potential. In the absence of facilities to handle international cargo, the Air India flight to Dubai and the Silk Air flight to Singapore have been deprived of a chance to carry cargo to international destinations.

Modifications to the old terminal building to convert it into a cargo complex is estimated to cost Rs.50 lakh and the work for ground handling is ready.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI) Headquarters in Delhi has to place orders for procurement of equipment like scanners required by the airport.

E. Sai Pharma is exporting around 2 tonnes of drugs to Tokyo every week from the city. In the absence of export facilities from here, the company is transporting the material by road to Hyderabad and from there by air.

Customs clearance

“A Drugs Controller has to be posted at the airport for clearance of the drugs meant for export. Customs clearance for exports is not a problem for us as we are located in the SEZ and our material is cleared by Customs officials at the factory itself,” Sunil Lamba, Managing Director of E. Sai Pharma told The Hindu on Thursday.

“Silk Air is losing 2 tonnes of cargo a week due to the absence of dedicated cargo handling facility at the airport.

Urgent need

There is an urgent need to develop dedicated bulk cargo handling facilities,” says Rushikonda IT Parks Association vice president O. Naresh Kumar.

One can only hope that the Vizag-based export cargo doesn’t take wings from other airports.

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