The ongoing foreign exchange reserve crisis has had a negative impact on the shipping sector as well, as shipping entrepreneurs are unable to remit funds to main line operators.
If the situation cannot be resolved soon, foreign trade will face a serious threat, shipping entrepreneurs told a dialogue held in the city on Sunday.
So far, the local shipping agents owe $150 million to the foreign shipping lines, Iqbal Ali Shimul, vice chairman of Bangladesh Shipping Agents’ Association, said at the dialogue, organised by the Daily Ittefaq.
"Due to the dollar crisis, banks are hesitant to open L/C accounts. We need to remit money to the main line operators but have been unable to do that for some days," he said, adding that if this situation cannot be resolved soon, the supply chain will be seriously disrupted.
Chairman of Bangladesh Shipping Agents’ Association Syed Mohammad Arif said, for the last two years, entrepreneurs involved in shipping businesses have failed to obtain licenses.
Even, if a shipping-license holder dies, then his wards need to sit for examination to run businesses with his or her father’s license.
President of Bangladesh Freight Forwards Association, Kabir Ahmed said though shipping sector is lifeline of Bangladesh’s economy, the regulatory authorities failed to provide due support to the entrepreneurs of the sector.
Addressing the discussion as chief guest, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said, Bangladesh economy is still in good shape, which is why foreigners are showing interest in investing here.
He mentioned that the shipping sector of the country is expanding as the number of ships in the local shipping fleet has increased from 61 to 90.
He promised that the regulatory authorities would support entrepreneurs and that the country's port capacity would improve with better management.
Rear Admiral Mohammmad Shajahan said Chittagong Port can be turned into shipping hub now through trans-shipment.
"We are completely prepared to provide trans-shipment facilities to the region," he said, emphasising the importance of working together to remove bottlenecks in the shipping sector.
Executive President of BKMEA, Mohammad Hatem Ali said, a businessman has to pay a commission of up to 2.0 per cent for transacting remittance, which should be reduced to a logical level.
He also alleged that businessmen face troubles during customs clearances.
A large quantity of goods has been stuck since 2013 due to customs-related complications, he alleged.
"We want to raise our exports to $100 billion by 2030, but to achieve this target we need to remove customs-related barriers and to enhance the port sector's capability."
Mahfuzul Huq Shah, former director of the Chittagong Port said that the shipping sector is still being regulated by 100 year old regulations, which need to be updated.
Nurul Kaium Khan, president of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association, said that the reserve crisis is overplayed because those who needed to clarify the issue kept their mouth shut.
Saidul Islam, Ittefaq's special correspondent, moderated the discussion in the newspaper's conference room.