Feature: Bangladeshi fishing boat builders rely on traditional techniques, Chinese engines

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-01 20:55:15|Editor: Xiang Bo
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By Liu Chuntao, Naim-Ul-Karim

DHAKA, June 1 (Xinhua) -- In riverine Bangladesh, boats are still the key means of transportation and large numbers of people are still reliant on boats to catch fish to earn their daily bread.

The country's southeastern seaport city of Chittagong, located some 242 km southeast of the capital city of Dhaka, is one of the main fishing hubs due to its proximity with the Bay of Bengal.

Chittagong is also the country's premier seaport city and financial center and for around 400 years, local people have known how to make wooden boats for fishing.

For centuries Chittagong has, therefore, also become a key hub for boat building.

The industry at the bank of the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong still produces boats mostly in the traditional way, although uses some foreign machinery, including Chinese engines, according to industry insiders.

They said 100 years ago people used to use large ship engines made in England. Now they use the engines mostly made in China because they are of very good quality, as are the water tanks and radios made in China and available here at reasonable prices.

According to the boat builders, the wooden boats are usually built to be 20 meters in length, about 4 meters wide and 3 meters high. These vessels can cater to 20 seamen working at sea for more than 20 days. In such boats there are two rooms, one for the engine and another for storing fishing nets and food for the crew.

Md Alamgir, a boat builder, said he has been doing this job for 18 years.

"My job is to put the cotton inside the leaks surrounding the wooden boat's body," he said.

Alamgir also paints the entire body of wooden boat and gets paid 18,000 taka (222.9 U.S. dollars) per month.

"Lunch and tea is provided to me for free, so I can save some money for my daughter and two sons," said Alamgir.

MD Masleuuddin is a mechanical engineer.

He said the total cost of making a wooden boat is about 6 million taka, including the fishing nets and the engine.

"It takes 20 days to test the boat, including water tests, and only then can a boat be declared seaworthy. The total process from production through testing can take three months," he added.

Worker Fazle Kader said he has been building boats for 15 years.

"We began to make this boat two months ago," he said pointing to a half-finished boat. "Another one month is needed to finish it all. After a month this boat will be ready to go to sea. We will use a Chinese engine for this ship," he said.

"As for pay, I'm a day laborer and get paid about 700 taka per day."

Mohammad Mosleuuddi, owner of a ship, had it build for 7.5 million taka, including nets and a modern Chinese engine.

The ship will need maintenance work after three years and this will cost a further 60,000 taka, he added.

The keel and the body of such small but very strong ocean-going fishing boats are made from wood, which is imported from countries including Thailand, Myanmar and also sourced domestically.

Bangladeshi fishermen highly prize their locally made boats with their modern, reliable Chinese engines, and will often stay at sea for as long as it takes for them to bring back a catch of fish worthy to sell.