24 January 2015

Shipyards at Sitakunda face closure over blockade

Scraps, plates, other materials lying unsold

CHITTAGONG, Jan 23: The ship- breaking yards in Sitakunda seacoast are on the verge of closure as it has suffered big economic loss in 18 days of the nationwide blockade from January 6 last. The blockade will leave some 0.2 million workers jobless.

There has been a drastic fall in production of scraps, plates and other materials due to recent blockade enforced by the BNP-led opposition as the products have remained unsold.

Huge stockpiles of scraps, plates and machineries of the scrapped vessels were found lying unsold in the shipyards and on both sides of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway.

The yards could not make supply of their goods due to continuous blockade and intermittent hartals enforced by the opposition parties. The highway, the lifeline of the country as called by the businesspersons, industrialists and traders, has been experiencing incidents of arson attack as vehicles plying at night come under attacks of petrol-bombs by unidentified miscreants.

Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association leaders said that at least 50 truck-loads of scraps and plates of the ship- breaking yards were transported to different areas of the country a day even in the last year. But delivery of goods has come down drastically over the last few weeks while charges for carrying oxygen used in ship cutting and dismantling continue.

The transport fare has almost doubled while the prices of scraps and plates have come down drastically, industry insiders have said adding that the production in the re-rolling mills based on the raw materials from the ship-breaking yards has also remained suspended.

Eighty per cent of the raw materials of the country's re-rolling mills are supplied from the ship- breaking yards, they said.

Sources said the market price of scrap of the ship-breaking yards per kilogram (kg) was Tk 35 to 36 and scrap price per kg was Tk 41 to 42 during last November and December.

But the price of scrap has come down to Tk 30 per kg and that of plates dropped to Tk 37 per kg. On the other hand, the shipyard owners have to buy scrap oil tankers at Tk 40/42 per kg and other scrap vessels at Tk 37/38 per kg.

The ship -breaking yards are counting a financial loss of Tk 10 to 12 per kg on account of purchasing scrap ships, which led many shipyards to close down over the last three years.

The political instability caused by hartal, blockade and other programmes in the country since 2012 has led to closure of as many as 40 shipyards in Sitakunda including 10 shipyards locked up by the loan providing banks as the clients have failed to repay the loans and interests.

Over the last one year (2014) the ship- breaking business ran smoothly in the comparatively calm political situation, but the business becomes highly risky again under the present blockade and hartal programmes, said Abu Taher, president of Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association and owner of Taher & Brothers Shipyard.

As many as 105 ship- breaking yards have been developed in 15 kilometres of the seacoast area of Bhatiary, Madam Bibir Hat, Sonaichari, Kumira and Jore Amtal under Sitakunda upazila.

The industry started its journey with only four shipyards in Fouzderhat area in the upazila in 1980.

The government collects Tk 9.0 billion in revenue annually, sources said, adding that some of the items of the scrap vessels are also exported to some countries.

Source: the financial express. 24 January 2015

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