Formulation of the country's maiden shipbuilding policy is a good job done to facilitate the shipbuilding industry with the right direction and support for realising its full potential. Given the considerable growth of the highly capital-intensive industry in little over a decade, it was imperative that the government had already put in place a policy envisaging relevant facilitating as well as regulatory measures. However, now that the policy is set to be approved by the cabinet soon, the entrepreneurs should feel comfortable that the promising sector has finally found its rightful place in the government's planning schemes.
It has been gathered from a FE report this week that the policy drafted by the industries ministry has suggested for a master plan for the shipbuilding sector. The highly prospective industry is projected to earn $4.0 billion by exporting ships within the next five years. The proposed policy has emphasised the need for building capacity of the industry by providing soft loan and tax rebate for further development. It has proposed public-private partnership (PPP) for building state-of-the-art dockyards/ shipyards, harnessing blue economy and lowering bank interest rate. It has also called for sovereign bank guarantee facility, performance guarantee and creating a fund for the development of the sector.
According to experts, a highly lucrative market has emerged for Bangladesh to produce small and medium sea-going vessels as the industry leaders like China and South Korea are after larger container ships and tankers. Bangladesh can emerge as a surprise competitor in the small to medium ocean-going vessels market segment. The focus of overseas buyers has been on Bangladesh for sometime, testing the strength of the country's not-so-organised shipyards with stray orders. The test over, it is indeed gratifying that our manufacturers are now planning to go in a big way in this hitherto uncharted territory. Observers believe that this is a sector which has all the potential to flourish. The local shipyards have so far exported 40 ships to different countries in Europe, Africa and Asia and earned $180 million.
Experts opine that if the present trend continues, Bangladesh would be able to earn around $4.0 billion in a span of next five years. For that to happen, it is the government policy that has to be a major facilitator. Since huge investments are needed in this capital intensive and high-tech industry, long-term loans at the lowest possible rates of interest should be ensured in the upcoming policy. Besides, industry insiders feel that the policy should also take care of backward linkage facilities in order that a host of materials such as steel pipes, sanitary equipment, furniture, doors, windows, power generators, switchboards, transformers, upholstery etc could be locally produced instead of having them imported at high cost. This would, in turn, have a multiplier effect on the economy in terms of employment generation and subcontract servicing. It is thus important that the proposed shipbuilding policy address these and other pertinent issues to ensure that the sector is able to sustain the growth momentum.