Bangladesh Shipbuilders offer new prospects for furniture makers

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Bangladesh Shipbuilders offer new prospects for furniture makers

The rising shipbuilding industry has created a niche market for the local furniture makers, who can increase their exports by supplying furniture to the export-oriented shipbuilders.

But despite having the capacity, the furniture makers are failing to grab the market due to a lack of policy support and a delay in getting standardisation certificates from the classification society.

A small export-oriented ocean-going vessel requires furniture worth at least $1 lakh, which is now being imported.

“A ship is like a small hotel. It requires a lot of furniture such as bed, dinning table, kitchen cabinet, sofa and wooden panel,” said Saiful Islam, chairman of Western Marine Shipyard.

So, the local furniture makers can grab this opportunity as they have the capacity to meet the buyers' requirements, he said.

Bangladesh now competes in the international market in the segment of vessels having capacity from 1,000-10,000 deadweight tonnage. This segment includes tugs, crane boats, mooring boats, offshore craft barges, double-skin tankers and feeder tankers.

At present, Ananda, Western Marine, Highspeed Shipbuilding, Dhaka Dockyard and Engineering Works, Khan Brothers Shipbuilding and Karnaphuli Shipyard are the leading shipbuilders that make ocean-going ships for international buyers.

These companies have received export orders for making world-class seagoing vessels, both small and medium, worth $478 million with a deadline to deliver those by 2013, according to Export Promotion Bureau data.

Bangladesh also has the potential to earn $2 billion by exporting ships and vessels in the next five years, Abdullahel Bari, president of the Association of Export Oriented Shipbuilding Industries of Bangladesh, said at a seminar in September.

In the shipbuilding industry, about 60 percent of the contract value is spent on procurement as most of the raw materials are imported.

“Any organisation intending to supply materials to the export-oriented shipbuilding industry has to get standardisation certificates from an international ship classification society,” said Md Shamsul Alam, managing director of Marine House Ltd, a vessel designing company.

A classification society establishes and maintains technical standards for the construction and operation of ships and offshore structures.

The society validates that construction is according to the standards and also carries out regular surveys to ensure compliance with the standards.

Providing marine environment-friendly furniture is another requirement for building ocean-going vessels, Alam said.

“We see a big prospect of supplying furniture to the shipbuilders. It will help increase our exports,” said Zia Uddin Ahmed, chief commercial officer of Otobi, a leading furniture maker.

Otobi has applied for a certification from Germanischer Lloyd, a Hamburg-based international classification society, a few months ago.

But the furniture maker has not received any response from the society, although the company has necessary expertise and machinery to meet global standards, he said.

“We can now compete with global players as we have adopted the latest machinery and technologies and attracted the foreign buyers,” said KM Akhteruzzaman, chairman of Bangladesh Furniture Exporters Association. In fiscal 2011-12, the sector earned around Tk 220 crore from exports, up by 26 percent from the previous year's Tk 174 crore, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.

Furniture is one of the rapidly growing sectors in Bangladesh, constituting around 85,000 enterprises and carpentry households across the country, with the annual growth in terms of turnover being around 19 percent.

At present, the size of the local furniture market is at Tk 11,000 crore a year, said Akhteruzzaman.

Commerce Minister GM Quader told The Daily Star recently that the government will come up with necessary support if the sector people put forward any specific problem.