Cargo theft puts Kolkata airport to shame

KOLKATA: Even as Kolkata airport wins accolades for its new passenger terminal, the cargo wing continues to be a major embarrassment with imports being systematically pilfered. Such is the menace that cellphone manufacturers Nokia and Samsung have decided to shift bulk of their import cargo from Vietnam and China to other airports. This will not only hurt Kolkata airport’s revenue but also give it a bad name worldwide.

Freight forwarding and Customs clearing agents told TOI that theft of mobile handsets, pen drives, storage cards, computer parts and other electronic items was rampant at the airport. “As new systems and work ethics were ushered in, we hoped the problem would get weeded out. Instead, thefts have become more frequent and brazen. It is a shame,” said Calcutta Customs House Agents’ Association secretary Utpal Das. He has written to Airports Authority of India (AAI), expressing concern over the situation.

Though there are multiple CCTV cameras, they do not have 180-degree vision, allowing pilfers to do their job without detection. Moreover, the pilferage usually happens at night when a majority of the international flights arrive. The cameras don’t have infra-red capability and the footage is not satisfactory. 

The theft mostly happens in the apron area, where the consignments are unloaded, or en route to the cargo terminal. AAI joint GM Utpal Das acknowledged that Air India that handles bulk of imports takes two-three hours to transport the consignment from apron to the cargo terminal. 

The Import Freight Officer should look after consignment from the point it lands till it goes into the cargo building. But that does not happen. Instead, locals employed by Air India’s sub-agent and Bhadra International employees handle the stuff. With no CISF or airline security present, theft carries on unchecked, said Das. 

Kallol Chanda of Agility, a freight forwarding and Custom clearing agency that has on its client list Nokia and Samsung, said pilferage was so common at Kolkata airport that even his personal carton of mangoes was breached. “What I fail to understand is how the racketeers can smuggle out handsets and other electronic goods from the high security zone. If CISF is deployed and stringent checks are done, the menace will stop,” said Chanda. Now, cargo agents plan to book consignments only on day flights and shrink wrap them to make theft difficult. 

But why has the issue not been addressed? A problem, AAI joint general manager (cargo) K L Meena said, was the absence of a police complaint because there is no proof that the tampering and pilferage happened in Kolkata. He said the situation had improved vastly and would get even better when new CCTV cameras are installed to give complete coverage. 

“We will soon have a fool-proof system in place to ensure that import and export does not suffer owing to pilferage. Recently, officials of Sony checked out the facility and were impressed enough to make Kolkata airport the hub for the east,” Meena said.

Source From: The Time Of India

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