A supportive partner
Looking at Damen’s role in Bangladesh
Sales Manager Asia Pacific,
Damen Shipyards Group
Bangladesh is an up and coming country, widely believed to have the potential to develop into one of the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. However, there are many obstacles hindering its economic, and social, progress. Perhaps one of the most significant challenges facing the country stems from its combination of climate and geography, which result in regular natural calamities such as floods and cyclones. The Damen Dredging Journal met up with Damen Sales Manager Asia Pacific Rabien Bahadoer at Damen’s headquarters in the Netherlands to learn more about this resilient country.
The majority of Bangladesh is dominated by the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta – named after the country’s three major rivers. The Delta, home to two thirds of the population, consists of a vast network of interconnected rivers. It is not surprising that low-lying Bangladesh is sometimes known as ‘The Land of Rivers’.
Road and rail infrastructure in the region is limited. Rivers, therefore, play a vital economic role in trade and travel. “Rivers actually replace the roads,” explains Mr Bahadoer. “But floods are an annual occurrence. And because the land consists of fine sediments, flooding leads to erosion. This leads to problems in river navigation.”
With more than 8,000 km of inland waterways, Bangladesh depends on a functional river network. “For the rural population, river transport is the cheapest means of getting around,” continues Mr Bahadoer. “However, all of Bangladesh’s rivers carry and deposit a lot of sediment – mainly silt. This silt needs to be managed and maintained.”
Mobility = Economy
Safe and effective navigation, therefore, brings considerable economic advantages. “Dredging – deepening and maintaining rivers to allow bigger vessels – unlocks the potential of rural areas. It gets the goods from A to B. What’s more, dredging provides the proper foundations for civil engineering works like bridges and railways.” A prime example of such a venture? The prestigious Padma Bridge Project: a multipurpose road-rail bridge that will increase mobility and, on completion, is set to be the country’s longest bridge. This major civil engineering project was preceded by extensive dredging works.
40 years on
The Netherlands and Bangladesh face similar challenges concerning flood management, high population density, increasing urbanisation and intense pressure of the road and rail networks. In fact, Bangladesh’s delta region commands a significant position on the political stage – seen by the two countries’ governments and the World Bank Group signing an agreement mid-2015. The resulting partnership aims to create a long-term vision for delta management – achieving Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021.
So, what role does Damen – a Dutch company – play in Bangladesh? “As for Damen, we have been an active presence in Bangladesh since the early 1970s,” informs Mr Bahadoer. “There are several Damen vessels operating there – and I am proud to say that some of them are more than 40 years old and still going strong. It’s an unmatched track record that is underpinned by quality, performance, life cycle support. That’s what our customers appreciate.”
Long term partners
Damen’s customers include reputed government bodies such as the Bangladesh Navy, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority and the Chittagong Port Authority, as well as private companies. After decades of building strong contacts, Damen is looking forward to growing stable long-term business relationships: “We want to support growth in Bangladesh – by playing a vital role in tackling the challenges of this beautiful and developing country. Keeping the rivers and channels navigable with quality equipment, dedicated services and proper training,” says Mr Bahadoer.
Training, in particular, is crucial – demonstrating Damen’s commitment to nurturing local skills as well as optimising a vessel’s entire life cycle. In fact, Damen Technical Cooperation (DTC) takes this principle a step further – by constructing Damen vessels at Bangladeshi yards, the company is contributing to the valuable transfer of technology and skills to a country looking to develop its own shipbuilding expertise and knowledge. Looking at the accomplishments so far, in addition to the future possibilities, it’s clear that Bangladesh and Damen are on a path to shared success.