A major US BoI venture furious over large scale theft of its products at the Bandaranaike International Airport, has asked local authorities to take counter measures to neutralize a gang of thieves operating at the airport. In a letter dated December 5, 2005 addressed to Sri Lanka Electronic Manufacturers and Exporters Association, R. N. Patney, Managing Director of Celetronix Lanka, has said regular thefts were making it impossible to operate cost effectively in Sri Lanka.
He expressed disgust at organised thefts of memory modules despite controls by freight forwarders, airport security and Customs. Inquiries made by The Island revealed the presence of organised gangs of thieves. Last year’s rape of a woman passenger at the BIA by workers including security personnel bared the unprecedented breakdown of discipline within the organisation, the sources pointed. "Removing cargo seems relatively an easy task," an authoritative official said, acknowledging the danger in Celetronix Lanka shifting the Sri Lanka-based operation.
Celetronix Lanka claimed that the thieves were active since 2000 and pilferred equipment worth USD 671,265.75. "Looks like a gang is operating at the airport who are somehow or other managing to steal our products every now and then and it has become a nightmare for us to get justice even if the culprits are apprehended red handed," Patney said in his letter addressed to SLEMEA President Merrick Gooneratne.
The company said that it made representations to the BOI in the past. The company is faced with increasing rates due to the high risk factor involved and their failure to stop pilferage.
The SLEMEA chief has taken up this with Airport and Aviation Services Ltd. Merrick Gooneratne quoting freight forwarder Dart Express pointed out that a pilferage taken place on March 10 clearly indicated that it took place at the SriLankan Airlines terminal. Freight forwarders acted swiftly thereby managing to locate the missing carton along with its valuable contents, in an unused container lying in the container backyard. During the search they also found one of the previously missing boxes lying in another container in an area belonging to Expo Aviation. According to a confidential report seen by The Island, airport authorities initially claimed that the missing container could have been loaded. A search was undertaken only after freight forwarders demanded a thorough search. Gooneratne warned of injurious impact on the industry unless action was taken to apprehend organised gangs.
A furious Patney last week warned BOI chief L. R. Watawala that unless immediate action was taken to safeguard their cargo they would not be able to continue operations here. "A stage has come where airlines do not want to lift our cargo, insurance companies do not want to insure our cargo and freight forwarders not willing to carry the cargo unless they are protected against claims of losses. Each one of them wants extra charges which we are unable to bear in this competitive world," he said.