The maritime sector of the country has started to demonstrate enormous possibilities and the government is keen to harness the potential, said State Minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury.
While inaugurating four new oceangoing bulk carriers of Meghna Group on Sunday in Chattogram, the state minister said the government is working to make the local shipping sector more business-friendly.
At the Patenga container terminal of Chattogram port, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said that Meghna Group has been able to expand its fleet to 22 in the past decade due mostly to the support of the government. "We are working to scale up maritime investment further."
He said the government has increased the number of maritime academies to four and mulling four more national maritime institutes to produce skilled seamen.
The 200-metre Meghna Victory, the largest privately-owned cargo carrier in Bangladesh flagged off yesterday, registered a capacity record for the newly constructed Patenga container terminal. Other vessels inaugurated Sunday are MV Meghna Prestige and Meghna Hope Meghna Progress.
On the occasion, Chattogram Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan said that Bangladeshi-flagged vessels currently carry goods accounting for nearly 5% of Bangladesh's external trades. The country needs 500 ships to transport 100% of the external trade cargo.
He said the number of Bangladeshi vessels has increased to 95 from 38 in the last four years.
The Chattogram Port Authority chairman hoped Bangladesh will soon be able to transport 100% of the external cargo on its own and earn foreign currency by transporting products of other nations.
He also assured businessmen of resolving a recent issue over transporting goods by foreign vessels soon.
Meghna Group Chairman Mustafa Kamal said Bangladesh spends around $10 billion annually for the transportation of goods in import and export trade by sea. Foreign shipping companies used to take away a large chunk of the spending. But the country is now saving $700-$800 million a year by using available Bangladeshi ships.
He said the Meghna fleet is contributing significantly to the growth of the country's external trades.
However, Mustafa Kamal urged the government to provide more policy support to advance the maritime sector. He suggested introducing a one-stop service to ease the ship registration process, call sign, and the easy obtaining of a station licence.
He also proposed waiving the 1% Advance Income Tax (AIT) on the purchase of ships and withdrawing the condition of non-resale within three years of purchasing a ship.
Commodore Md Nijamul Haque, director general of the Department of Shipping, was present as guest of honour at the event.
Chairman of Al Haramain Group Mahtabur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Bangladesh Md Mabbub ur Rahman and Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam were also present.
HSBC Bangladesh has arranged $71 million in finance for the four vessels. According to the Meghna Group, the bulk carriers were built by a joint venture of Japan and China named Jiangsu Yangzi-Mitsui Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.
The capacity of each of these oceangoing vessels is 66,000 deadweight tonnage.
Source: The Business Standard