The government should formulate a specific plan to identify exact areas in the sea with resources to tap the possibilities of the blue economy by attracting investors in this sector, said the speakers in a Zoom discussion on Saturday titled Opportunities in Blue Economy of Bangladesh organised by Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).
They also called the authorities to form a separate ministry to ease the process of investment in this sector and for making policies.
The speakers said that Bangladesh can earn $10 billion annually by introducing 1,000 vessels to carry products through the sea routes which can also employ about 50,000 people.
CCCI president Mahbabul Alam inaugurated the discussion with his welcome speech while Wasfi Tamim, CEO of Bangladesh Center of Excellence, moderated the event.
Mahbubul Alam said that the vast water area of 1,18,813 square kilometers along with about 710 kilometers of coastal area full of biodiversity and natural resources has made the country's blue economy very promising. But much of this fortune is yet to be explored.
In view of the situation, the government has included a specific chapter in its Vision 2041 styled Bangladesh Perspective Plan 2021-2041 (PP 2041) on Blue Economy.
Mabubul Alam stressed the need to formulate policies and strategic frameworks to encourage private investment with appropriate incentives and legislation.
Zafar Alam, member (admin and planning) of Chattogram Port Authority (CPA), presented the keynote speech. He said, "There is huge potential and prospect in the blue economy, which can have a vital impact on our economy."
Zahir Uddin Ahmed, former chief of naval staff of the Bangladesh Navy, said, "The government is telling people to invest in fishing in the sea, but there is no correct survey in this regard."
"It is regrettable that this sector has not developed like other sectors after the independence of the country. We have been taught since our childhood that Bangladesh is a riverine country, but we don't realize that we are also a maritime nation."
Engineer Abdur Rashid, managing director of Karnaphuly Ship Builders Ltd, said, "The size of Bangladesh is around 148,000 square kilometres but the size of the maritime boundary is 2, 07,000 square kilometres, which is larger than the country. Although we have many ministries to manage the activities on the land, for the vast maritime area we do not have any ministry despite having huge resources there."
He said that he is interested in investing in this sector and his company is trying to carry Haj pilgrims by sea route from Bangladesh.
The speakers said that the country is depending largely on some specific export earnings and remittances, but it has huge potential to export marine resources such as seaweeds to diversify its export baskets.
Tarafder Md Ruhul Amin, vice president of CCCI and managing director of SAIF Power Group, said, "In the last 10 years, we have spent $95 billion as freight charges, of them 85%-90% has gone to foreign companies."
Shahriar Jahan Rahat, deputy managing director at KSRM Group, said, "A handful of export earning sectors is not enough for our economy. The oceangoing vessels earned nearly $1 billion last year. If we compare it to Indonesia, they have 27,000 vessels but we have only 80 vessels. If we can increase the number to 1,000, we will be able to earn $10 billion yearly from this sector."
"These vessels will generate employment for around 50,000 Bangladeshis, who will be able to send $1.5 billion remittances annually to the country," he added.
Rahat also suggested withdrawing the condition that after buying an oceangoing vessel the owner cannot sell it.
He also called for ensuring one-stop services to ease the investment procedures.
Abu Morshed Chowdhury, president of Cox's Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "We are not working for producing quality salt. We have to work on how we can produce salt scientifically without importing salt from India."
Emphasising the use of river and sea routes for transportation of goods, Engineer Abdur Rashid said, "We are spending millions for highways without paying any heed to inland waterways connectivity."
He also suggested building a riverine connection with Dhaka and the whole country.
Tarafder Md Ruhul Amin said that inland waterways connectivity will also reduce the pressure on highways and reduce the emission of carbon.
Engineer Golam Sarwar, chairman of Prantick Group, Md Rashed, chairman of Reliance Shipping, Rashed H Chowdhury, Chattogram bureau chief of The Daily Bonik Barta, Shamsuddin Illius, Chattogram bureau chief of The Business Standard, Engineer Iftekhar Hosen, in-charge of CCCI Research, Development and Training subcommittee, and convener of the same committee Salauddin Yousuf also joined the discussion as panellists.
Source: The Business Standard