The shipping industry and business are as old as human civilisation. Additionally, shipping is a very old industry in Bangladesh. Without question, shipping has a significant impact on our economy. Bangladesh also has a vast potential for marine resources. It might not seem much, but if processed and utilised properly, marine resources can be a lucrative source of income. However, this industry has not expanded as much as it was anticipated. In recent years, The Bangladesh Shipping Corporation or BSC, has been losing market share in the shipping sector of Bangladesh, which worries its stakeholders more and more due to the company’s divergent growth from that of the market. Also, after Bangladesh had an expansion of its maritime territory, the aquatic resources too expanded. Undermining this source is a crucial shortcoming in such a scenario.
In research, it was found that BSC was unable to effectively leverage its advantages over rivals, including government assistance and the national freight protection facility, and to quickly replace its fleet. Overage vessels were thus unable to operate in the majority of international waters. The company eventually had to discontinue its liner and cargo services. In addition, it could not compete in the shipping industry due to a lack of competent workers and an improper market strategy.
But the maritime business industry is an enormous prospect in contemporary times. Globalisation and trade dependency creates a huge market for the business, and blessed with the perfect geographical location, this industry needs expansion for the greater good. It is necessary to fully and efficiently implement international shipping and its linked entities, such as supply chains, port logistics, and other marine service industries. Due to several positive developments, developing nations are extremely enthused about the growth of the marine industry. According to stakeholders, if the government of Bangladesh acts quickly, marine trade in the nation can grow extremely quickly. The Bangladeshi government has shown a strong interest in the growth of the marine industry as well as maritime research to support the creation of the tools and infrastructure necessary for Bangladesh to fulfil its full maritime potential.
Bangladesh is lucky to have a sizable region of territorial waters that span a surface area that is almost 1.5 times greater than its land size. Bangladesh is a heavily populated marine nation. The coastline zone covers an area of around 36,000 sq. km or close to 25% of the entire land area of the nation. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers around 164,000 square kilometres, and the continental shelf is roughly 37,000 square kilometres. Nearly 700 rivers may be found across the nation, with a total length of 22,155 km and an area of 11% of the nation’s total land. Since many economic activities are connected to the marine industry, Bangladesh’s economic development depends on it.
From a Bangladeshi standpoint, the marine industry has a promising future, yet there are now certain difficulties. The requirement for infrastructure and investment represents the sector’s biggest problem. Due to Bangladesh’s dearth of modern, up-to-date marine infrastructure, entrepreneurs may experience anxiety while trying to expand existing maritime firms using novel business strategies. Due to the difficulties of conducting business in such an atmosphere, some valiant attempts have fallen short.
There are three seaports in Bangladesh: Chittagong, Mongla, and Payra. Deliveries of imported commodities have thus far been made to the Payra port’s outer anchorage. The port’s primary infrastructure, however, is yet to be created. Because of this, we now have to rely on the ports of Mongla and Chittagong. However, due to poor navigability and a lack of effective connectivity with Dhaka, Mongla’s products export has not yet reached the anticipated level. After the Padma bridge was built, shipping through this port was estimated to be increased. Around 9.47 crore tonnes of commodities were discovered to have been moved via these two ports in the most recent fiscal year (2017-18). 90% of the total cargo, or almost 8.50 crore tonnes, was handled through Chittagong port alone, while the remaining 10%, or about 97 lakh tonnes, were conveyed by Mongla.
A balanced distribution system is lacking when it comes to shipping containerised products through seaports. Due to this, the port is experiencing both vessel and cargo congestion. The need for a new terminal is critical given the steadily growing volume of products being transported. The port jetties’ berthing occupancy during the previous fiscal year was 93%. New jetties must thus be constructed in Chittagong Port.
Bangladesh boasts a lot of burgeoning maritime professionals due to the expansion of maritime-related education. New marine professionals are developing new business models while also attempting to re-engineer the ones already being employed in the nation. Thus, the nation is taking steps to investigate the marine industry from a worldwide perspective, either directly or indirectly. It is anticipated that these economic models would provide Bangladesh’s marine industry with a chance to prosper. Singapore is growing more developed as a result of the growth of the marine industry across the nation, serving as an illustration of an Asian nation that has effectively adapted modern maritime business models. The development of the nation as a transit port was one of its endeavours in this area. Despite having a new generation of maritime experts, a developing nation like Bangladesh lacks the required government support to implement such improvements in the marine industry. There are issues with the working conditions and pay, which make it difficult for Bangladeshis to work in the marine industry.
Bangladesh might possess the potential to become a maritime powerhouse if the country’s working environment promoted a competitive market for marine specialists to work in as well as targeted facilities for research and experimentation.
The World Bank published an insight into how Bangladesh can boost exports, emphasising logistics. In their report, the World Bank stated that Bangladesh must enhance its transportation and logistics infrastructure to satisfy its expanding economy’s demands and spur export development. The report named “Moving Forward: Connectivity and Logistics to Sustain Bangladesh’s Success” found that Bangladesh can greatly increase export growth, keep its position as a top manufacturer of ready-made clothing and textiles, and increase employment by improving logistics. According to the research, poor infrastructure, unbalanced markets for logistics services, congestion on highways and at seaports, high logistics costs, and fragmented governance hinder manufacturing and freight, further eroding Bangladesh’s competitive edge and endangering its steady economic trajectory.
The study asserts that effective logistics is now one of the key factors influencing the competitiveness of global commerce as well as the expansion and diversification of exports. Bangladesh has the chance to improve its global market share in textiles and apparel, which make up 84 percent of its total exports, expand to new markets, and diversify its manufacturing and agriculture into elevated items by increasing its logistics performance.
Bangladesh has made some progress in diversifying its clientele in an effort to control risk and adjust to shifting demand patterns. Diversifying into products with better value additions and entering other significant and developing markets, notably in the East, are still difficult. The epidemic has highlighted the crucial role ports play in a nation’s timely delivery of products domestically and globally. The World Bank estimates that more than 80% of all goods traded globally are transported by sea, with containers accounting for around 35% of total volumes and more than 60% of commercial value.
According to a recent research, effective logistics may boost Bangladesh’s exports by 20%, according to a session on logistic discourse held by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AMCHAM). By 2025, it is predicted that Bangladesh’s logistics industry would be worth more than $90 billion. Bangladesh’s economy is experiencing fundamental change. Therefore, there is no question that the rise of the industrial and service sectors will continue. Therefore, port infrastructure is necessary both for exporting completed goods as well as for importing raw materials for manufacture in economic zones. After the Padma Bridge is built, port facilities will also be required to export and import commodities to and from those sectors.
The discussions above so far only focus on the shipping industry of the country. Let’s now look at what sea-based resources can help establish a prominent economy. When nations consider the possibility of using their marine resources, the idea of a maritime economy emerges. It creates a significant opportunity for the economic growth of coastal nations to utilise their resources at both the national and global levels. The idea of the maritime economy has grown in importance for sustainable development. The resources found in the water serve as the marine economy’s sole supply of raw materials. And each nation is expected to take care of these. Most of the planet is also covered by these resources. With that being said, it is overdue for Bangladesh to implement concrete measures to guarantee the efficient and effective utilisation of marine resources.
Prior to a few years ago, Bangladesh had acquired a sizable portion of the Bay of Bengal through the resolution of a maritime dispute with India and Myanmar. Bangladesh may therefore assert that it is a country with a blue economy, sometimes known as a marine economy. Bangladesh now possesses more regional land and, most significantly, a larger EEZ because of this sea settlement. A remarkable new door has been opened for our country with the resolution of the lawsuit encompassing more than 1,18,813 square kilometres of ocean area, including 200 nautical miles. A growing source of the marine economy may be sparked by the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh may gain from its marine resources through exploring oil and gas, fishing, breaking and building ships, gathering minerals like salt, developing tourism areas, etc.
Numerous problems have been plaguing the world recently, particularly those involving the economy, food, fuel, coal, and natural gas. The maritime economy may barter its way out of these difficulties. It is an original strategy for recovering any sane economy. Over 70% of our globe is protected by water. The ocean is used to convey almost 90% of the products that are imported and exported worldwide. Undoubtedly, a sizable percentage of our country’s economy is based on the marine sector.
The country now has a sizable ocean border in reality. It has created excellent opportunities for unhindered exploration of mineral riches on the ocean floor. The area of our marine zone that lies under the seabed and the ocean is rich in both living and non-living resources. But it’s possible that we won’t have enough trained labour available to identify the availability and study the assets. We shall be able to produce trained labour in the oceanographic and marine sectors of Bangladesh by importing sophisticated education. The terms “Blue Economy” and “Maritime Economy” are now trendy. It is becoming commonly spoken in Bangladesh as well. Bangladesh is also becoming aware of its significant effects. Such interest was further piqued after acquiring significant maritime boundaries with India and Myanmar.
Bangladesh is wealthy in terms of both its enormous water resources and the biological variety present in those regions. The coastline region of Bangladesh is one of the world’s most productive due to its geographic location and climatic conditions. One of the key characteristics of the coastal areas, which are home to numerous fish and other aquatic species with high commercial value, is the effect of mangrove forests. Bangladesh is shaped like a delta. There are numerous international rivers in Bangladesh. The Himalayan Mountains are to the north, and the Bay of Bengal is to the south of the area. The St. Martin’s Island point of Bangladesh’s 710-kilometre-long coastline is home to a number of ecosystems with great ecological and economic potential.
Because of the geological positioning, Bangladesh inherits a massive opportunity to utilise its sea-based advantages. The importance of a stable and healthy shipping industry is quite clear. The maritime advantage can enormously complement the shipping industry, including shipbuilding and port services, to bloom even further. There are other areas which have to be and can be emphasised as well, the fishery for example. High-value fish exports and shrimp farming have developed into today’s most heavily traded, export-focused industries. Mismanagement has recently plagued Bangladesh’s marine fishing industry. Some significant fish populations are in danger.
Bangladesh, however, has seen an increase in fisheries production. This industry generated 25.30% of Bangladesh’s agricultural GDP and 3.57% of the country’s overall GDP in 2017–18. Moreover, exporting fish generated around 1.5% of the country’s foreign cash in 2017–18. The COGR for the fisheries has been 5.28% during the past ten years, according to the Yearbook of Fisheries Statistics (2015–16). Additionally, depending upon the statistics covering fisheries industry it was well predicted that in 2021, fish production would total 5.20 million metric tonnes. This industry will provide a lot of food and aid in the economic development of Bangladesh. The demand for fish is growing and keeping up with it nowadays. Bangladesh must guarantee this sector’s continued growth.
The nation receives a considerable quantity of food and livelihood assistance from the aquaculture sector. Fish, algae, and other creatures are harvested, bred, and raised in many kinds of aquatic environments. It is also referred to as aquaculture. It also has the fastest rate of food industry growth. Currently, 47% of the seafood consumed comes from aquaculture. So, with the right steps, aquaculture can become a significant economic source for Bangladesh.
Another notable benefit of marine resources is their ability to produce medical facilities. Large-scale problems, including human health, sustainable food production, environmental cleanup, and energy issues, can be handled via marine biotechnology. Marine microorganisms are an extremely valuable source of medicine. Eight natural marine compounds have received clinical approval to treat cancer, pain, and Alzheimer’s disease. Marine biotech might significantly contribute to the creation of the newest antibiotics.
Due to their large capital requirements, maritime firms are seen to be ‘high risk’; however, these risks may be decreased by making informed and timely decisions. Because of this, discreet business owners are gaining more and more from this field. The government is undoubtedly a significant stakeholder in the marine sector. The long-term survival of a marine firm is exceedingly difficult without the government’s involvement and the right measures. Stakeholders believe that governments should support innovative business models that promote growth. Also promoting subsidies for newly founded companies would promote long-term viability. The creation of those new firms, as well as the expansion of the national economy, will both profit from subsidies.
Author- Mohammad Sifat