The blue economy policy of the government, coupled with export diversification strategy, has made the ports and the shipping industry more focused, said Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) Chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Shahjahan.
“Inland and coastal shipping contribute significantly to the economy, contributing approximately one percent to the GDP growth. Bangladeshi seafarers employed in international shipping send huge remittance. The government’s blue economic policy would increase the Bay-centric economic activities for which vibrant ports and capable shipping industry are a must,” he said.Talking to BSS, the CPA chairman said that Bangladesh is situated in a very advantageous geographical location to provide transit and transhipment facilities to its neighbour landlocked seven north-eastern states of India, Nepal and Bhutan, which can be extended up to landlocked Yunnan province of China.
“The country can earn huge foreign currency by using its seaports and inland ports to the neighbours. Freight and fees for transit and transhipment would contribute to GDP. Besides, coastal shipping with neighbours and inland shipping within the country are contributing to the GDP significantly,” he added.
He mentioned that the regional connectivity through the Asian Highway, the inland waterways, the coastal and international shipping can open a window of opportunities for the shipping sector, the seaports, and Bangladesh’s inland ports. Seaports of Bangladesh can be transformed into sub-regional shipping hub.
Mohammad Shahjahan, however, said though Bangladesh ports have enhanced their capacity and performance over the last decade, the ports need urgent up-gradation of the existing handling facilities due to increasing pressure of containers and cargo, both domestic and external, digitalisation and strict supervision would ensure the smooth operation of the deep seaport by eliminating corrupt practices.
“To harness the maximum potentials of the ports and the shipping sector, Bangladesh needs to widen its maritime landscape by building a deep seaport that would host the deep-draft domestic and foreign vessels. An active deep seaport would generate a considerable amount of revenue for the country on the one hand, and generate employment opportunities for the country’s shipping sector on the other,” he added.
He said the domestic shipping sector is critical to the economy as the country can carry emergency products by the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation’s fleets and the local ships.“The Bangladesh shipping sector can earn a considerable amount of foreign currency as freight, detention and demurrage charges, agency commission, and repair and maintenance charges. Besides, Inland and coastal shipping contribute significantly to the economy,” he added.
The CPA chief said the Bangladeshi seafarers employed in different international shipping companies send vast amounts of remittances back home every year.
“The local shipbuilding sector employs thousands of skilled, semiskilled and unskilled workforces. Besides, we should encourage the local investors formulating business friendly policies to invest in the port and shipping sector to develop bulk and container vessels, including liner services both in the public and the private sector. The public-private partnership initiative can also be encouraged,” he added.
He said the government should also formulate a policy to reduce foreign currency expenditure, discourage unwanted delay of ships and containers, and prevent hoarding in floating vessels.
The demurrage and detention charges for the foreign shipping companies should be reduced to make it attractive, he added.