Bangladesh can emerge as a quality shipbuilder, provided the nation cashes in on the growing demand in the post- recession time worldwide, Danish Ambassador in Dhaka Einar H Jensen has pointed out.
“The government has to play the key role by creating the frameworks and policies to address the shipbuilders' problems, including financial constraints, the envoy told a seminar in Dhaska yesterday.
Sheba Bangladesh Foundation organised the seminar on 'post-global economic recession: prospects of shipbuilding industry in Bangladesh' at the LGED auditorium.
The Danish envoy, who has been closely observing the sector over the three and half years, said the foreign buyers also believe Bangladesh has huge potential in shipbuilding industry.
In November last year, he said, 21 investors from Denmark visited Bangladesh and had meetings with the local entrepreneurs. “More than half of them are already in business in the sector, while others are coming,” said Jensen.
He observed that business is back now, as the demand for ships is rising again with the recession showing signs of recovery. Such demand marked a downtick on the onslaught of the financial meltdown worldwide, Jensen further said.
“The government should stand by the local businessmen willing to make investments in the shipbuilding industry by easing the bank finance for them. High lending rate and the cost of getting bank guarantee are the two major problems these businessmen are facing,” he said, adding: “If the government does so, it will help strengthen the confidence and interests of foreign buyers and investors.”
Industries Minister Dilip Barua said, “We'll provide all support to the shipbuilding sector, considered a new horizon of industrial development.”
Admitting that the high lending rate and absence of cash incentives still hinder the growth, the minister assured the entrepreneurs concerned of doing the needful to develop the sector.
Dr Abdur Rahim in his keynote paper pointed to the fact that more than 50 percent of the world's ships are over 20 years old and require replacement in the next 5-10 years. Referring to a study conducted by the Danish embassy, the shipbuilding sector expert said Bangladesh can build ships at a cost 15 percent lesser than other countries.
Rahim suggested the government help develop new shipyards, train a workforce for both the local and foreign markets and facilitate backward linkage industries for flourishing the industry.
Dr Abdullahel Bari, chairman of Ananda Shipyard and Slipways Limited, demanded that the government provide 20 percent incentives for the sector. “India gives 30 percent, Vietnam 40-45 percent and China 20 percent,” Bari cited the examples.
Shipbuilding businessmen Hafiz Rashed, Hafizur Rahman and Nurul Islam expressed their dismay as the sectoral problems, especially the issues relating to building shipyards, remain unresolved for long.
Agrani Bank Chairman Professor Khandaker Bazlul Haque chaired the seminar where former director general of shipping AKM Shafiqullah and chairman of Sheba Bangladesh Foundation Professor