Western Marine Shipyard, the country's leading shipbuilder, yesterday handed over an offshore patrol vessel built for Kenya at a cost of $18 million.
WMS constructed the vessel for its Danish buyer JGH Marine A/S, which will hand it over to the agriculture, livestock and fisheries ministry of Kenya.
The handover ceremony, which was attended by Finance Minister AMA Muhith, took place on a ship near the shipyard located on the eastern bank of the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong.
The 54.7-metre vessel with a maximum speed of 35 nautical miles per hour will be deployed in the maritime territory of Kenya to ensure security of the country's sea resources and expedite assistance in times of natural calamities.
The vessel named 'Doria' is equipped with fully automatic, centrally controlled and electro-magnetically compatible equipment with a helipad, said WMS officials.
“This is the first offshore patrol vessel built in Bangladesh. This is a milestone for the local shipbuilding industry,” said WMS Chairman Md Saiful Islam at the ceremony.
The vessel was delivered at a time when the global shipbuilding industry is facing a prolonged slump in demand. Islam said the local shipbuilding industry needs policy support since the capital-intensive sector is facing challenges mainly because of unaffordable funds.
“If there is policy support for this type of industry, Bangladesh will be able to become a middle income country by 2021,” he said.
Islam said when 30 percent shipbuilders in the world have gone bankrupt, WMS is in the process of building 33 ships for countries such as Norway, the UAE, India and Denmark as well as some government and private organisations of Bangladesh.
While talking to reporters after the ceremony, Muhith said the government has already provided bonded warehouse facility and some cash subsidies to the shipbuilding sector.
The incentives will continue at least for the current term of the government.
Muhith, however, said the government does not have a plan for a separate fund for the sector at the moment.
WMS Managing Director Md Sakhawat Hossain said if the government extends support to the shipbuilding industry it could be as successful as the garment sector.