Promoting ship-building industry

An opportunity is showing up for Bangladesh to promote an emerging sector and make it a hugely successful one, even more than the readymade garments ( RMG) sector in a short period of time and earn a bounty in foreign currencies on a sustainable basis. This is the country’s budding ship building industry . Already, two private sector shipping companies have made their mark in this field by getting orders from European countries to make small and medium sized ocean going ships. They are now doing path breaking work in this sector and other potential entrepreneurs can take on shipbuilding tasks by emulating their example and adding sinews to this sector.
The situation now is much like the early seventies when Bangladesh was just starting to launch itself in the RMG sector. The RMG sector then quickly flourished to come to the state it has reached today. A similar feat is possible in the very hopeful ship-building sector. The world market for ordered ships is growing annually by six percent and if Bangladesh can even get two per cent of the market shares in this sector, it can start earning the equivalent of foreign currencies in the neighbourhood of 560 billion taka in the near future. The earnings are only one side to the multi-faceted spin-offs. Hundreds of thousands of people will be employed in this new industry and its linkage ones as it will be semi labour intensive in the Bangladesh context. A large number of engineers, technicians and skilled people will not be required to go abroad as they would find highly gainful employment in the country on a regular basis.
But all of these developments will take place fully and expeditiously, provided the government plays out its role as a facilitator. The first thing needed to this end is the declaration of ship-building as an industry. This is the first step to make it legally eligible and otherwise to become the beneficiary of different concessions and benefits the government usually extends to emerging industrial sectors.
Government is also expected to allow green channel facilities for import of raw materials for the ship-building sector. All capital equipment and raw materials for this prospective sector should be allowed importing under specially preferential lower tariffs. The central bank should have a policy for this sector to be operated in consultation and understanding with the commercial banks and other financial institutions so that the shipbuilders can get loans from them under easy terms and conditions.
From all appearances, the greatest need of this nascent sector is a supportive role of the government in line with a guideline prepared by the government for the purpose. There are many spots by the sides of rivers where the government can acquire lands and lease them to ship builders to set up shipbuilding yards and slipways. Planning would be necessary in this sphere to safeguard the environment and to locate the shipbuilding industries in the ideal places.
There are indeed great possibilities for the shipbuilding sector to be tapped in a conducive policy environment. It is largely up to the government to help timely in the creation of it so that this industry can take-off faster. It needs ample recognition among policy planners that Bangladesh’s export earning commodities are only a handful that keeps the entire export trade vulnerable because of this limitation in the number of export items. But the emergence of the shipbuilding industry can be a mighty and very resourceful addition to the country’s total export endeavour.