Lakshmipur is becoming a hub of manufacturing all kinds of fishing trawlers and boats, including sea-going fishing trawlers. Every year more than 100 sea-going trawlers and over 300 boats are being built there. This has created thousands of jobs in the district.
According to officials and boat artisans, previously, all sea-going trawlers used to be imported. But now trawlers are being made domestically. At present, about Tk200 crore is being invested in this industry every year.
Boat artisans of the district said if the trawler manufacturing industry is expanded in Lakshmipur, it will provide employment to several thousand more people.
Currently, trawlers—for fishing in both river and sea— are being made at about 13 places in four upazilas of the district including Tanki Bazar of Ramgati upazila, Chargazi, Asalpara of Alexander, Alexander ghat, Motirhat of Kamalnagar, Bhangapul, Jaridona, etc.
Hossain Mistry of Char Ramiz area of Ramgati upazila said the season for making trawlers and boats is from November to May. Boats cannot be built without a dry season. The rainy season is for fishing. Boats are not built or repaired during that period.
According to artisans, building a trawler has several steps, each requiring seven to ten craftsmen with different experiences. Overall, the trawler-building industry employs about 150 to 200 people in each area.
Abul Khair, a trawler mechanic at Asalpara, said it takes about five months to build each sea-going trawler. A trawler requires at least 1,200 cubic feet of wood and costs around Tk7 lakh to build. The cost of each trawler, including the engine and nets, is around Tk80 lakh to 1 crore. Sea-going trawlers are more than 56 feet long and about 16 feet wide. Imported foreign timber is used to make these trawlers.
Earlier the owners used to buy these trawlers from Thailand and Myanmar. At present, most of them are made locally, which is providing employment to the locals, he added.
Another mechanic named Monir said it takes 600 to 800 workers a day to build a sea-going trawler. On the other hand, it takes about 300 workers a day to build a small or medium boat in one to two months. Overall, the cost including nets and engines sums up to around Tk20-25 lakh.
According to local boat artisans, about 20 sea-going trawlers are being built annually in Motirhat area of Kamalnagar. These trawlers are suitable for fishing in inclement weather. At the same time, about 20 boats are being built there.
Emran, an owner of a boat in Motirhat, said the trawler made of imported wood can be used easily for about 15-20 years. On the other hand, trawlers made of domestic wood last for 8-10 years. But they cost nearly half than a trawler made of imported wood.
Foreign iron wood, oak and chapalish woods are used to make sea-going trawlers. Indigenous mahogany, chapalish, raintree kadai, nalkarai, punal, narai, garjan, chambal and trishul are used to make small boats.
Belayet Majhi, a trawler maker with 30 years of experience in the profession, said a worker qualified to build a trawler earns between Tk1,000 to 1,200 per day, while an assistant worker earns around Tk500 to 600.
Workers said the sea-going trawlers are speedy and can move at a speed of 20 to 22km per hour against rough currents and 35 to 40km per hour at favorable times. The new and reconditioned 140 to 290 horsepower engines, imported from different countries including China are installed in them.
Md Bilal Hossain, senior fisheries officer of Lakshmipur, said there is no approved government or private dockyard in the district. The trawlers that are being built are the initiative of the locals.
He added that if trawler making could be turned into a full-fledged industry, the quality of locally made trawlers would further increase.
According to the Fisheries Department, there are 50,252 registered fishermen in Lakshmipur. Among them 40,000 are involved with Hilsa fishing.
About 10,000 fishermen go to Chittagong and Cox's Bazar areas to catch fish in the sea. Each trawler holds about 12 to 16 fishermen.
However the office of the Senior Fisheries Officer's Office of Lakshmipur said about one lakh residents of the district are involved in fishing.