DEVELOPMENT OF SHIPBUILDING INDUSTRY IN BANGLADESH: PROSPECTS AND PROBLEMS
In a country like Bangladesh, crisscrossed by many rivers and having a long coastline, development of shipping and shipbuilding has been just a natural recourse. It is, therefore, no wonder that Bangladesh has a rich heritage in shipbuilding. Recorded history traces back the era of 15-17th century when number of timber vessels built in this part of the world made their way in Europe and other part of the world. However this part fell far behind in shipbuilding when the industrial revolution brought in new technologies and techniques like use of steel and engine replacing timber and sail. But with the prevalent requirement of trade through water, shipping and shipbuilding in the domestic market flourished gradually – initially with old technology and then adopting modern technologies slowly. With a modest take off after independence, today Bangladesh has a considerably large fleet of 10,000 ships consisting of multifarious types of vessels, most of them below 3,500 DWT. This huge fleet has been constructed and is being maintained by about 200 indigenous local shipbuilding and repair yards. Generating employment of around 100,000 and growing at a rate of 25 percent this sector is playing an important role in our economy. Of late Bangladesh has started exporting ships again. The reemergence of this industry in export market, though very modestly, added a new dimension to this industry flaring up hope for another export oriented sector that will contribute strongly to the economy. Although the international shipbuilding market is currently undergoing a period of lull due the recently encountered recession it will certainly pick up pace in few years. With her short experience in the global market Bangladesh will have greater scope to slide in the market comfortably. Altogether prospect of shipbuilding industry in Bangladesh is fraught with the possibility of more employment, more industrialization, more revenue, more foreign currency earning and thus more growth. The way to these prospects is, however, marred with problems like lack of infrastructure, low quality of work and skill, and a negative financial environment. Strategic planning by the government with strong policy and firm commitment will be necessary to advance this sector to grow further and become another strong export oriented industrial sector of Bangladesh. The analysis of this paper suggests that relying on stable domestic demand while improving quality and productivity is the most viable strategy for Bangladesh’s shipbuilding industry.
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