The weight and dimensions
listed on the airbills for a large number of
shipments from Zia International Airport (ZIA) bear
little relation to the actual shipment; it is
alleged by some cargo trade insiders.
deliberate, a lot of variation as high as 20 per
cent-- of the weight that is on the air bill
and what is delivered, they maintained.
By Raquib Siddiqi
Aug 21, 2004, 13:57
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Comment: If the average weight
theft is 20%, it stands to reason that some
individual aircraft loads will be 30%
overweight in real terms and some slightly
below claimed (documented weight-bill)
weight. Freighters most often fly "bulked
out" (volume-wise) but not always. Some
percentage of specialist shipments would be
weight-limited. In that case they would
normally be operated at max gross weight for
You have to wonder just
how many weight-limited cargo flights are
taking off grossly overweight
- although not necessarily with any
significant CofG effects.
According to a conservative estimate, if the weight
theft is only 10 per cent instead of 20 per cent as
alleged, the airlines are losing Taka nearly 800
million a year and aircraft are facing danger of
accident. This huge amount of money is shared by
agents and airline and other staff involved in cargo
handling at ZIA.
During the year 2002-2003 little over 88,000 tons of
cargo or on an average 241 tons daily was exported
through ZIA. If weight theft is only 10 per cent
instead of 20 per cent as claimed, the volume of
stolen weight of cargo amounts to 24.1 tons or
24,100 kg. If loss to the airlines is calculated on
the basis of average rate of USD 1.5 per kg, the
total comes to USD 36,150 per day. At Tk. 60 to one
US dollar, the amount in Taka comes to 2.16 million
a day or Taka 788.4 million a year.
The gap between the claimed and real weight of
shipments is not uncommon in other parts of the
world. Experts say all the sophistication built into
the latest equipment to measure, weigh and identify
air cargo shipments has done little to solve a
problem at the heart of the industry all over the
However, in the developed country it is mostly
because of combinations of mistakes made under tight
time constraints, but in the developing countries it
is because darker forces at work.
You have a supposedly valid airbill, the freight
gets consolidated on pallets or in containers, and
all of a sudden, it weighs more. All the airlines
know is that the pallet or container weighs more
than it should but they can
not tell whose freight is responsible , a
There are some people who obviously take carriers
for granted and try to take advantage of them. There
is also an inability for all parties to check. The
time sequence for air shipments makes that
unrealistic. Various sides of the air cargo industry
may debate the business issues involved in weighing
shipments, but for carriers it is, literally, a
matter of life and death.
That was the
case for US carrier
Fine Air in 2001 when a fully loaded DC-8
crashed at Miami International Airport,
killing three people on
board and two people
on the ground. An investigation found the plane was
improperly loaded and that shifting cargo during
takeoff may have caused the crash.
The Federal Aviation
Administration of U.S.A fined the Mexican airline
TAESA $160,000 for flying a DC-10-30 freighter from
Miami in 1997 some 23,564 pounds - or about 4
percent - over its maximum allowed gross weight.
The Commonwealth of Independent States experienced a
spate of plane crashes following the break-up of the
Soviet Union and its national carrier, Aeroflot. In
some cases, according to news reports, organised
criminals had sought to avoid both national and
physical laws by forcing pilots to fly overloaded
and carriers can seldom slow down to check shipment
weights because of the nature of air shipping.
Persons responsible usually do not re-weigh and
And because of the added dimension of dimensional
weight - a pound of bricks may weigh the same as a
pound of feathers, as the old joke goes, but they
still would not fit into the same box - checking the
weight of each shipment may be more complicated than
running it over a scale if a station does not have
the latest equipment.
According to allegations, the problem has assumed
epidemic proportion in Bangladesh, where employees
of different parties involved have established an
"understanding" with shippers to earn extra money.
There is no doubt that the calculations are
deliberately done to earn share of the profit by the
shippers at the cost of revenue of the airline
concern and safety of the aircraft.
At Zia International Airport (ZIA) the intentional
weight cut is rampant, some people involved with the
trade said and added that the persons responsible
for preparing Trim Sheet are themselves involved in
the racket and regularly producing incorrect trim
sheet. They are being aided by lack of adequate
facilities. The scales available for cargo shipment
are not enough and more often remain defective. Due
to faulty calibration, scales meant for weighing
pallets display different weight of same parcel if
measured more than once, a senior officer of a
foreign airline said.
The temptation to gain enormous benefit is so high
that persons involved in weight cut do not even
ready to consider the question accident risk. Some
times back, a large cargo agent in Bangladesh
chartered an aircraft and provided the cockpit crew
with thoroughly incorrect trim sheet. The weight cut
was so huge that the pilot realised the problem
after taking-off. He had no alternative but to come
back after taking-off and made the agent re-load the
The wide-spread practice of weight cut at ZIA is
posing serious threat to the safety of aircraft. On
many occasions persons were caught for weight cut
but all of them were set free, even without warning,
it is alleged.
However, concerned authority of Biman Bangladesh
Airlines strongly refuted the allegations of weight
theft of cargo at ZIA. According to him, during the
year between July 2002 and June 2003 little over
88,000 tons of air cargo has been shipped through
ZIA. Biman carriered about 28,200 tons, 17 foreign
carriers about 48,800 tons and freighters about
11,400 tons. Of the total, 23,000 tons were
perishable cargos and rest were dry. Almost all the
perishable cargo was lifted by Biman.
Biman maintained that possibility of weight theft of
dry cargo is nil as these are charged on volumetric
basis. For example shippers are to pay for 650 kg
for a shipment of 500 kg dry cargo. The perishable
cargo goes through different stages and handled by
different persons. Re-weighing is also done on more
than one occasion.
However, insiders of cargo trade who are for growth
of healthy trade do not subscribe to Biman's view.
They alleged that corruption in the sector is so
widespread and going it for so long that it has
become part of the system. It is rather impossible
to improve the situation without drastic measure.
The industry executives say, the introduction of
strategic and technical advances made in shipping
goods by air are likely to bring welcome change and
solve the current problems on the ground.
In the near future, the entire system is expected to
be electronic and paperless. The shipper, airline,
trucker and forwarder are all involved in this
process. The sooner it comes, the better for the
Otherwise, if people out there are regular
violators, they have to realize that if they want
their freight to move, they must give accurate
information or it will just sit on the dock.