Md Rezaul Karim, Chair­man Ship­pers' Coun­cil of Bangladesh

"To en­hance trade be­tween Bangladesh and In­dia, both the coun­tries should give more em­pha­sis on con­nec­tiv­ity, de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture, ini­ti­at­ing con­fi­dence build­ing and peo­ple to peo­ple con­tact," avers Md Rezaul Karim, Chair­man, Ship­pers' Coun­cil o

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Q Tell us about the role of Ship­pers’ Coun­cil of Bangladesh in pro­mot­ing the ex­port/ im­port trade of Bangladesh?

A Since in­cep­tion, SCB has been play­ing a very im­por­tant role in the in­ter­na­tional trade. In fact, SCB ini­tially used to fa­cil­i­tate ex­port of jute. With the change of global trade sce­nario over the years, role of SCB has not only changed but has be­come man­i­fold, es­pe­cially with the open­ing of ma­jor ex­port of RMG. SCB is only the Trade body in the Trade in­for­ma­tion with the pub­li­ca­tion of SCB Jour­nal SHIP­PERS’ NEWS reg­u­larly. Ear­lier, SCB co­or­di­nated be­tween lo­cal ship­pers and for­eign MLOS. But now it is also bring­ing con­cerned pub­lic and pri­vate agen­cies across the ta­ble to re­solve vi­tal ex­port trade re­lated is­sues. SCB is also one of the ac­tive part­ners of re­gional and global ship­per’s coun­cil. Thereby it sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­utes in fa­cil­i­tat­ing trade.

Q

What are the key lo­gis­tics chal­lenges the trade com­mu­nity in Bangladesh is fac­ing cur­rently?

A Lo­gis­tics chal­lenges the trad­ing com­mu­nity is fac­ing in Bangladesh are not only too com­plex but also di­verse due to new di­men­sions of busi­ness within & be­yond. Ma­jor lo­gis­tics chal­lenge is to en­sure trade fa­cil­i­ta­tion with in­creased ca­pac­ity build­ing & cred­i­bil­ity in­clud­ing skill de­vel­op­ment. As per WB Lo­gis­tics Per­for­mances In­dex Re­port-2018, reg­u­la­tory and le­gal frame­work with re­gard to Cus­toms, in­fra­struc­ture, ease of ar­rang­ing ship­ment, qual­ity of lo­gis­tics ser­vices, time­li­ness, track­ing cum con­tract­ing etc. re­quire improve­ment. These ar­eas need to be ef­fi­cient enough to sim­plify trade re­lated is­sues.

In spite of dig­i­tal plan, mem­bers of the com­mu­nity have to run af­ter the cap­i­tal for or­di­nary busi­ness. Load bear­ing scale at high­way causes ship­ping de­lay with for­eign trade cargo to & from Chittagong Port. Ex­tra se­cu­rity lock in ad­di­tion to in­ter­na­tional norm with MLOS, etc. cause huge ex­tra money for do­ing busi­ness keep­ing us un­com­pet­i­tive.

Q While Bangladesh is the world’s sec­ond largest ex­porter of ready­made gar­ments, which are the other com­modi­ties that have the po­ten­tial to boost the coun­try’s ex­ports?

A Glob­ally our mar­ket share in RMG ex­port is around 6.5%. On the other hand, RMG ac­counts for 81% of our ex­ports. Other ex­ports in­clude jute and jute goods, leather and leather goods etc. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts, IT prod­ucts etc. are emerg­ing as new ex­portable. A large va­ri­ety of sea­sonal fruits with high food value pro­duced in the coun­try can be an­other ex­portable item. We have sur­plus po­tato which can be pro­cessed for ex­port. High value agri­cul­tural prod­ucts are an­other source of ex­port.

Blue econ­omy can be a new prospect for our flour­ish­ing econ­omy. For the time be­ing Ma­rine Fish Re­sources could be uti­lized with huge con­tri­bu­tion to ex­port bas­ket through deep sea fish­ing.

Our ex­ports in the re­gion is around $7.6bn which can eas­ily be in­creased to US$ 18.9bn as re­ported by WB, sub­ject to eas­ing of trade bar­ri­ers through dia­logue with ma­jor trad­ing part­ners to fa­cil­i­tate bi­lat­eral ben­e­fits.

Q Syn­chro­niz­ing feeder ves­sel move­ments with the sched­uled move­ments of main­line ves­sel at tran­ship­ment ports has been a con­cern. How can this be re­solved?

A Over the years, ma­jor MLOS & FOS (Feeder Op­er­a­tors) have been merged for sur­vival. Since, mother ves­sels nor­mally do not call on our Port, we have no op­tion but to be with trans­ship­ment ports in the re­gion as per sched­ule to pro­tect our econ­omy. It is very dif­fi­cult for us to

join MLO club. On the other hand, lo­cal FOS like HRC, QC, At­las, BSC & oth­ers no more ex­ist. Pro­cure­ment of ves­sels by BSC may be vi­able, sub­ject to ef­fi­ciency. But that may not hap­pen. Ship­ping busi­ness is too cap­i­tal in­ten­sive. Lo­cal in­vestors find it very dif­fi­cult to be en­gaged in such busi­ness. Since, there is no lo­cal FO, ini­tia­tive with lo­cal ship build­ing in­dus­try through tri­par­tite con­tract & spe­cial rate of in­ter­est may en­cour­age hon­est in­vestors. Feeder Trade with JV may be an­other op­tion for con­nec­tiv­ity with re­lay ports.

Q A ma­jor prob­lem the gar­ments in­dus­try faces is it has lit­tle con­trol over lo­gis­tics ser­vices which im­pacts the in­bound and out­bound sup­ply chain. How can the sup­ply chain be im­proved?

A It is true that in­bound and out­bound sup­ply chain is not within the con­trol of gar­ment and other in­dus­tries. But sit­u­a­tion is grad­u­ally im­prov­ing, Law en­forc­ing agen­cies are do­ing their best to en­sure smooth move­ment of goods to and from the ports. Trans­port sec­tor is also be­ing dis­ci­plined grad­u­ally.

Q Goods mov­ing through the Pe­trapole/be­napole border of­ten face de­lays due to lack of in­fra­struc­ture. How can the cross border move­ment of cargo be ex­pe­dited?

A huge trade be­tween Bangladesh and In­dia is con­ducted through Be­napole and Pe­trapole land ports. But these two ports suf­fer from lack of in­fras­truc­tural fa­cil­i­ties. Ac­cord­ing to many stud­ies, the ex­ist­ing chal­lenges these two ports face are : in­suf­fi­cient op­er­a­tion hours, low stor­age ca­pac­ity, bro­ken in­ter­nal roads, wa­ter log­ging, lack of fire fight­ing equip­ments, in­ad­e­quate equip­ments, in­suf­fi­cient trans­port and space fa­cil­i­ties, lack of sur­veil­lance, ab­sence of CCTVS, in­ef­fi­cient reg­u­la­tory and ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­ce­dure, lack of dig­i­ti­za­tion. Re­moval of these prob­lems will greatly en­hance the bi­lat­eral trade.

Q In your opin­ion how can the Indo-bangla trade be fur­ther im­proved?

A De­spite im­mense po­ten­tial­ity, Indo-bangla trade re­mains be­low ex­pected level. Here the bar­ri­ers are many. High tar­iff, Para tar­iff and non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers, lack of con­nec­tiv­ity re­sult­ing is high cost and con­fi­dence gap in the in­ter­na­tional border are the main bar­ri­ers. In or­der to en­hance trade be­tween Bangladesh and In­dia, both the coun­tries should give more em­pha­sis on con­nec­tiv­ity, de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture, ini­ti­at­ing con­fi­dence build­ing and peo­ple to peo­ple con­tact. Re­cently rail­way con­nec­tiv­ity project has been taken up to con­nect Agartala in In­dia with Akhaura in Bangladesh. An­other rail­way con­nec­tion project be­tween Chi­la­hati in Bangladesh and Jat­paignri in In­dia has been taken. Border trade is con­tribut­ing to en­hanced trade. More­over, at­tempts are also be­ing made to ex­e­cute SAFTA. There is a sen­si­tive com­mod­ity list in In­dia which is a bar­rier to our ex­port. With a view to in­creas­ing trade be­tween two coun­tries the list has to be re­vised so that Bangladesh’s bas­ket of ex­port may be in­creased. I think, the over all progress in indo-bangla trade is in the right di­rec­tion.

Q While the global ship­ping and lo­gis­tics in­dus­try is em­brac­ing Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence and Block chain tech­nol­ogy, what is the level of dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion in the ship­ping and lo­gis­tics sec­tor of Bangladesh?

A In or­der to re­move in­con­ve­nience, and to face chal­lenges in port and lo­gis­tics in­dus­try, au­to­ma­tion has been brought in both freight-port ter­mi­nals and in land freight ter­mi­nals. A unique sys­tem for over­all port and lo­gis­tics man­age­ment called Ter­mi­nal In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment Sys­tem (TIMS) has been in­tro­duced. TIMS, a web based end-to-end in­te­grated port au­to­ma­tion so­lu­tion of­fers ser­vices like- Han­dling ves­sel and cargo move­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in and out of the port, Real time in­for­ma­tion about freight, Manag­ing gate op­er­a­tions, Over­all port fa­cil­i­ties and equip­ment man­age­ment, Cargo and lo­gis­tics in­for­ma­tion net­work.

Land Port Man­age­ment Sys­tem (LPHS) a full-fledged in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment sys­tem for land ports was im­ple­mented to au­to­mate Be­napole Land Port. It has dash­board driven se­cured lo­gin mod­ules for var­i­ous types of users; the main ware­house in­ven­tory mod­ule; the post­ing branch mod­ule; the Trans­ship­ment mod­ule; the assess­ment and billing mod­ule; a bank sub-mod­ule/plugin; a sub­mod­ule for truck en­try.

TIMS is a full fea­ture Ter­mi­nal Man­age­ment Sys­tem for sea ports. Through this sys­tem Berth op­er­a­tor is able to han­dle the con­tainer in­for­ma­tion eas­ily and man­age freight ef­fi­ciently. The whole Yard Net­work have Wifi tech­nol­ogy for de­vice ac­ces­si­bil­ity where users can use hand­held de­vices for var­i­ous op­er­a­tions from the yard.

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