Nizam Shipping Ltd, a shipbuilder in Jhalakathi, is striving to expand its business to the international market, but a time-consuming and costly process of bringing scrap steel sheets and other raw materials from Chattogram shipbreaking yards has been frustrating its aspirations.
"Shipyard owners have to pay high transportation costs and spend a lot of time bringing in scrap sheet metal from Chattogram. The shipyards in Barishal would benefit immensely if a shipbreaking yard in the vicinity of Payra port is established in the division," said Nizamuddin, owner of Nizam Shipping Ltd in Nalchity of Jhalakathi.
Like Nizam Shipping, many other thriving shipyards in Barishal have been facing problems getting scrap steel to make vessels.
Currently, there are around 40 small and large shipyards in Barishal division, according to information from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) offices in Barishal, Jhalakathi, Bhola, Patuakhali, and Barguna.
These 40 or so ship-building yards need around 50,000 to 1 lakh tonnes of steel per year. Transporting 12 tons of this steel from Chattogram to Barishal costs Tk40,000, which will come down to Tk6,000-10,000 if there is a ship breaking yard in Barishal, said industry insiders.
The shipyards in Barishal make 20-30 different types of vessels a year which mainly ply the country's rivers. After fulfilling local market demand, these companies sometimes build vessels for the international market, said Nizam, who recently received work orders for building vessels from some foreign buyers.
"Most of the vessels made here are small cargo ships and lighter passenger launches. Many small and large vessel owners get engines and other machinery from scrap vessels in Chattogram. If the same could be sourced from Barishal, it would be easier for us," he added.
According to industry insiders, the annual transaction turnover in the Barishal shipbuilding industry is around Tk200 crore and this sector has provided work for at least 3,000-4,000 people.
"A shipbreaking yard can rapidly develop the ship-building industry of Barishal, and allocating around 100 acres of land for such a yard in Patuakhali is already underway," said engineer Arafat Hossain, ship surveyor and examiner for the Department of Shipping.
"Scrap vessels will be brought here to salvage steel and different types of machinery from them. The yard will create more employment," he added.
"A shipbreaking yard is going to be established close to the Payra Port to fulfill the increasing demand for steel at local shipyards," confirmed Kamal Ahmed Majumder, state minister for industries.