Bangladesh in talks with UAE on seaport operations, direct shipping line: Foreign Minister

Bangladesh in talks with UAE on seaport operations, direct shipping line: Foreign Minister

By Binsal Abdulkader

ABU DHABI, 13th February, 2022 (WAM) -- Bangladesh is keen to establish a direct shipping line with the UAE, which will reduce the existing navigation time by two thirds and pave the way for exponential growth in bilateral trade, a top Bangladeshi diplomat told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

AK Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, who is on a four-day official visit to the UAE, added that Bangladesh is keen to utilise the UAE’s expertise in port management for the operation of major seaports in the country.

In an exclusive interview with WAM at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Momen said, "We always look for better connectivity in South Asia and with other parts of the world because connectivity means productivity."


Two-third less navigation time


He pointed out that ship traffic between Bangladesh and the UAE is currently routed through ports in Singapore and Ceylon, Sri Lanka, which takes around 40 to 42 days. A direct shipping line will help reduce it by two thirds to around 14 days, resulting in a leap in bilateral trade volumes.

The bilateral trade between two countries in 2021 stood at US$1.8 billion, he revealed, saying that a direct shipping line would help multiply it several times.

The balance of trade was in favour of the UAE as the exports from the UAE to Bangladesh were to the tune of US$1.3 billion and imports from the UAE to Bangladesh were worth US$500 million, the minister explained.

As Bangladesh has started exporting its excess production of foods, especially rice and vegetables, the UAE, as an export destination through the direct shipping line, would benefit both countries, Momen said.


Operation of Bangladeshi seaports


The UAE has achieved a lot of technological progress and we can learn from it, the top diplomat pointed out.

"The UAE is very good in the management of ports. We have plenty of ports and long coastline. The UAE can share their expertise and experience with us. We are working on that," Momen said.

Bangladesh has three large seaports in Chittagong, Payra and Mongla, and many other small ports. Bangladeshi government is open to deals with UAE-based companies, who have global reputation in professional port management, to operate those ports, he added.

"Talks are going on in this regard between both countries based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)."


Prime minister’s upcoming visit


Bangladesh and the UAE had signed four MoUs during Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the UAE in February 2019 on establishing a port, industrial park, supply and setting up a liquefied natural gas (LNG), terminal, power plants and a special economic zone in Bangladesh The Bangladeshi Foreign Minister revealed that the prime minister is likely to visit the UAE next month.

Bangladesh is also keen to share the experience of its pharmaceutical industry with the UAE. "We have two major sources – water and human resources. Emiratis are good at business. They are welcome to invest in Bangladesh and utilise our resources."


700,000 Bangladeshis in UAE


An estimated 700,000 Bangladeshis in the UAE are actively contributing to the development of both countries through their dedication and hard work in almost all sectors in the country, he said. "I am here to tell them that we value their contribution."

Bangladeshis are the third largest expatriate community in the UAE after Indians and Pakistanis.

Condemning Houthi terrorist attacks, international cooperation

The foreign minister strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks by Houthi militia on civilian facilities in the UAE. "This is really sad, and we condemn these attacks. All issues can be resolved through dialogue and discussion. This [action] should be stopped immediately."

Bangladesh and the UAE are working together in many international forums for regional and global peace and prosperity.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), an inter-governmental organisation of 23 member states and 10 dialogue partners in Indian Ocean region, is one of the platforms where the two countries work closely. The UAE was IORA chair in 2020 and Bangladesh assumed that role in 2021.

"So, I think in this area we can discuss a lot. Global climate action is another crucial area of cooperation."


Hopes on UAE’s climate leadership


As the UAE is hosting the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Abu Dhabi in 2023, Bangladesh pins high hopes on the conference.

"UAE is taking is a leadership role in this area," he said.

As the chair of Climate Vulnerable Forum, a platform convening more than 50 climate vulnerable nations across the globe, "we expect some real tangible outcome in this area because we must save this planet for our future generation."

Bangladesh is seeking the UAE’s cooperation to increase the share of renewables in its energy mix as well, which will help reduce carbon emissions, the top Bangladeshi diplomat added.


WAM/ Ibrahim Shukralla