A change in the cargo security screening procedure at the Visakhapatnam international airport has led to a pile-up of goods — including crucial shrimp consignments — at the exit point, affecting over 300 suppliers from the state.
Till now, airlines practised self-screening of cargo booked on their flights.
However, under the latest guidelines from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), airport cargo services and screening for all airlines are to be done at a single point.
Meanwhile, it transpires that the Airport Authority of India (AAI) cargo department does not have sufficient staff and equipment at Visakhapatnam to oversee screening.
This has put the brakes on cargo operations, resulting in the pile-up at the airport of consignments bound for the rest of India.
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Shrimp seed consignments
Shrimp seed from the hatcheries of Andhra Pradesh has a huge demand among aqua farmers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, among other states. The hatcheries export live shrimp seed by air.
However, the supplies have come down to a trickle because of the snarl at the Visakhapatnam airport.
According to Visakhapatnam MP MVV Satyanarayana, recruitments are also being made and new equipment procured.
Interestingly, when the new security clearance guidelines were issued in February, hatchery owners from Visakhapatnam requested that the old system be continued until the new system was in place.
Responding to their plea, BCAS extended the old system till March-end.
Satyanarayana has now requested Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia for an extension of the old system by another three months.
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Outbound cargo affected
Sources at the Visakhapatnam airport office said that with the exception of shrimp seed and the naval cargo, which was given an extension till March-end, outbound cargo of all other commodities and domestic airlines had lost significant income.
For instance, AAI Cargo Logistics and Allied Services Company Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AAI, lost around ₹14 lakh per month owing to the slowdown of the outbound cargo facility.
Marine freight or aqua products are one of the major commodities sent through the Visakhapatnam airport from January-February to August every year.
These exports contribute substantially to the overall economic development of the region and the state.
Around 13,23,356 kg of shrimp seed was airlifted from the Vizag air cargo terminal in 2020-21, which rose to 13,27,785 kg in 2021-22, and 13,29,233 kg in 2022-23.