Blue Economy of Bangladesh: An Overview

Between 2012 and 2014, maritime border disputes with Myanmar and India were resolved in favor of Bangladesh, resulting in an expansion of its territorial waters by more than 30% and the country’s claim to 118,813 km2 in the Bay of Bengal. This achievement offers a wide range of new economic opportunities for employment and growth in sectors such as marine fishing, marine aquaculture, tourism, natural resource exploitation, trade, and energy. Blue Economy of Bangladesh

However, for these opportunities to contribute to the long-term development of the country, marine resources must be managed sustainably. In this regard, since 2014, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has initiated discussions with stakeholders to adopt the blue economy concept in all relevant policies and plans.

 By definition, the blue economy promotes the idea of ​​harnessing the untapped potential of the marine environment through smart solutions and innovation to increase food security, improve nutrition and health, reduce poverty, create jobs, and strengthen business profiles. At the same time it protects the health and biodiversity of ecosystems and strengthens regional security and peace.

Potential research area to support the blue economy in Bangladesh:

There are six main areas of ocean research that can be found in Bangladesh for the development of the blue economy, as summarized below:

The branches of physical and spatial oceanography have great potential to monitor physical parameters such as sea surface temperature, tides, waves, currents, nutrition, chlorophyll, and potential fishing resources and renewable energies from marine sources. Space oceanography can be applied to measure the identification of potential fishing grounds in the Bay of Bengal.

  • Geological oceanographic research activities can be carried out to identify marine mineral resources, as well as sources of industrial materials through the Bay of Bengal, which has the potential area for deposits of phosphorite and yttrium, which are rare elements on earth. In addition to lime mud, aerated sand, and construction sand can be collected from the Bay of Bengal. There is a possible source of gas hydrate in the Bay of Bengal (alleged reserve of 300 TCF in the continental shelf and the slope zone of the Bay of Bengal.
  • The chemical oceanography industry is a very potential sector for the development of medicines, cosmetics, and marine minerals in the Bay of Bengal. In addition to various services such as the management of hydrocarbon pollution, chemical pollution and ocean acidification; measurements and monitoring can be carried out in this area.
  • Biological oceanography is the most promising oceanographic sector in Bangladesh. River runoff brings a large amount of food with the sediments to the Bay of Bengal, which can be used for the potential development of coastal and near-shore Mari culture. In addition to the biochemical composition of marine organisms, the development of fishing and the cultivation of algae (seaweed) have great potential in this area.
  • Measurement and environmental monitoring of ocean, plastic and micro-plastic pollution, support for environment and income assistance (EIA), etc. can be controlled by environmental oceanographic research. In addition to oceanographic data management, the application, dissemination and security of information derived from seabed data can also be organized. The ocean observation system and ocean monitoring can allow us to monitor ocean parameters and changes.

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Export and import of Bangladesh

Bangladesh Bank

Government Banks in Bangladesh

Charting a New Path for Bangladesh with the Resources of the Blue Sea

The objective of the Blue Economy Initiative, is to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and employment opportunities in Bangladesh’s maritime economic activities in the short, medium and long term. In particular, the Blue Economy initiative aims at promoting synergies and create framework conditions that support specific maritime economic activities and their value chains.

The comprehensive review and analysis of blue growth potential has confirmed the potential of the blue economy as an untapped resource. In order to materialize the international cooperation and support needed to place the blue economy on the international sustainable development agenda17, among the coastal countries, Bangladesh is aiming for the process of the first international workshop on blue economy in 2014 and then the second in 2017 in Dhaka taken.

The full development and government endorsement of the proposals represented the next step to ensure international momentum and acceptance of the blue economy as an approach that differs from conventional business but is mutually reinforcing.

International Workshop on Blue Economy (2017), Dhaka:

The Honorable Prime Minister stressed during the workshop that the blue economy could play an important role in the economic recovery of the country linked to poverty reduction, food and nutrition security and the fight against the effects of climate change. climate change. The Prime Minister highlighted the blue economy as an opportunity for development and expressed her determination to make the Bay of Bengal a center for economic development and prosperity, and noted that marine resources and services could significantly contribute to the development of potential sectors.

However, he identified the lack of trained personnel, institutions and technology as a major challenge for Bangladesh in effectively utilizing marine resources. He also said that Bangladesh has already prioritized fisheries, shipping, ship recycling, shipbuilding and coastal tourism given its huge potential.

He reiterated Bangladesh’s commitment to the conservation and balanced development of natural resources while maintaining the integrity of environmental aspects and biodiversity while pursuing the development of the country’s people. The workshops recognized the blue economy as a search for sustainable development, taking into account the benefits and management strategies of marine resources.

 The importance of participating in Blue Economy:

  • increasing sustainable fishing capacity and creating alternative employment opportunities;
  • promote the sustainable management of small-scale marine fisheries;
  • Support artisanal communities’ access to information, technology, finance, regulation and governance processes to sustain them year-round from alternative sources of livelihood;
  • Increase the share of capture fisheries in fish production by protecting/restoring critical habitats; encourage private sector investment in coastal Mari culture;
  • Work with the international community to end overfishing, effectively regulate catches, and end illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and destructive fishing practices;
  • Assist countries in need to implement their science-based management plans to restore fish stocks to sustainable yield levels;
  • Strengthening of regional governance/institutions in the management of Areas Outside National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).

Therefore, capacity building should be approached and planned in terms of adequate development of institutional and governance frameworks, effective legal framework, academic and research facilities, managerial, technical and technological skills, and skills qualified and comparable.

Blue economy sectors

For the development of blue economy in Bangladesh, 26 maritime economic functions from fisheries, maritime trade and shipping, energy, tourism, coastal protection, maritime security and police have been identified.

The maritime economic activities that have been identified and need to be developed to take advantage of the blue economy are summarized below;

Maritime trade and Navigation


International shipping contributes to the three pillars of sustainable development, facilitating global trade, creating prosperity among nations and peoples, creating a wide variety of jobs on board ships and ashore, with direct and indirect for the livelihoods of others.

Compared to other modes of transport, it offers the greenest and most energy-efficient way to move large volumes of goods and people. The global regulatory framework is provided by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which has adopted 52 treaties governing the construction and operation of ships.

The most important of these, relating to the safety of human life at sea and the protection of the environment, currently apply to 99% of the world’s merchant fleet. More than 90% of Bangladesh’s foreign trade is done by sea, and ongoing globalization has made this flow increasingly important.

Bangladesh’s long coastline and ancient maritime tradition has led to a relatively large development of maritime services supporting maritime trade and function (from shipping agents, freight forwarders and insurance to classification and maritime inspection and training.

Currently, the value of Bangladesh’s exports and imports is around US$78 billion (2017-18) and transported by nearly 3,000 foreign vessels calling at our ports. Compared to our import and export value, over the past decade, importers, exporters and buyers have paid US$95 billion in freight and related charges to shipping companies, airlines and foreign shipping companies to transport goods to and from Bangladesh.

There are only 42 registered Bangladeshi merchant ships (2018), which is insufficient to carry even a fraction of our cargo. Considering the average growth rate of imports of 15.79% (last 10 years) and the growth rate of exports of 15.43% (last 10 years), the projected value of freight for the next ten years would be approximately $435 billion.

Coastal Marine Services

This means national and international transport of goods in and from/to neighboring countries with medium-sized ships. Coastal transport is an important mode of transport in most transport systems and this figure will be highest in Bangladesh, which has long coastlines along the Bay of Bengal.

It meets the transportation needs of economies by providing point-to-point maritime transport for all types of goods; it provides the maritime link that connects the road network across the seas; it serves as a feeder transport that distributes container flows from major seaports to smaller ports or other landlocked countries.

With long-term annual growth expected in the range of 5-6% for the next decade, coastal cabotage from ports in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar could play a crucial role in navigation services. Such transshipment in Singapore, Kelang, Colombo and other ports in the region would be cost effective, save time and increase employment opportunities. So far we have only signed a coastal shipping agreement with India and it is ongoing.


Infrastructures such as ports can be used by different economic activities and are a good example of synergy. It goes without saying that ports are important crystallization points for maritime economic activities: cruise shipping, cabotage, international maritime transport, passenger ferries, fishing, offshore mining, oil extraction, maritime surveillance or the high seas, they all need ports and the associated infrastructure.

There are strong synergies with international maritime transport, which not only provides cargo abroad, but also characterizes the main ports. Port planning must be approached in a broader sense, identifying the main functionalities of ports and buildings complete value chains.

Important harmony appears here in relation to the supply industry and tourism. Statistics show that Bangladesh’s economy relies heavily on international trade, with seaports playing a key role in transporting 94% of our foreign trade.

Bangladesh needs to improve the existing handling and berthing capacity of ports such as Chittagong and Mongla and develop deep water ports with more capacity and modern handling equipment at Matarbari and Payra to enable more trade. Establishing seaports can significantly reduce export times and generate a steady stream of revenue for the country.

Passenger ferry services

Passenger transport on fixed shipping routes, sometimes combined with RoRo transport. Passenger ferries also offer synergies, while inland navigation is another essential link in the chain. In 2018, around 223 million passengers and 50 million tons of freight were transported via land/coastal networks, leaving enough room for new investments and expansion in the coastal strip.

Internal water transport

Bangladesh has one of the largest inland waterway networks in the world with a length of 24,000 km, 1,000 jetties and 21 river ports. The Pangoan Inland Container Terminal with 55,000 square meters of container space, a handling capacity of 2,400 TEUs and two berths has been in operation since November 2013.

The Port of Chittagong handles approximately 3 million TEUs annually, of which 80% is destined for Dhaka and only 10% reaches Dhaka by rail. Containers can now be shipped domestically at a much cheaper cost.

According to the Asian Development Bank report, Bangladesh can increase its GDP by 1% and its foreign trade by 20% if the river logistics system becomes efficient and competitive. There are more than 10,000 barges, 75 coasters and about 6,500 barges registered with the Ministry of Merchant Shipping and almost all of these vessels are built in Bangladesh.

The main shipping lanes of Bangladesh pass through some major river ports such as Dhaka, Narayanganj, Chandpur, Bhairab, Barisal, Chittagong and Khulna. The connection of these ports, especially with waterways, is important for the economy. Therefore, maintaining the navigability of the country’s rivers must be a priority, which in turn creates jobs and is more profitable than road connections.


The shipbuilding industry contributes to this function by providing the necessary equipment, which includes not only ships, but also marine equipment in which our own industries can play an important role.

There are over 300 shipyards and workshops in Bangladesh and almost 100% of the requirements for barges, fast patrol boats, dredgers, passenger vessels, landing craft, tugs, supply boats, decked cargo ships, racing boats, freighters, transporters of troops, hydrographic surveys.

These shipyards build boats, inspection boats, pilot boats, water taxis and pontoons. The shipyards are building 10,000 DWT seagoing vessels for export and are expected to increase their capacity to 25,000 DWT. The shipbuilding industry not only earns foreign exchange, but also saves it if, as in road and rail transport, around 100% of transport vehicles/rolling stock are imported from abroad.

It should be encouraged and nurtured in every possible way, including its horizontally and vertically linked activities, and provided with opportunities and incentives for growth and expansion. Other similar manufacturing and construction fronts, including ship repair facilities, should also be seriously considered.

Ship recycling industry

Over 7,000 ships were demolished in 2017, the highest number in six years and Bangladesh ranks first in terms of number of ships. It provides about 70-75% scrap as raw material for rolling mills and steel mills and saves a lot of foreign exchange. This industry not only met the growing needs for furniture, household items of all kinds, boilers, lifeboats, generators, etc., but also employment opportunities.

There are about 125 ship recycling yards with an annual turnover of about $2.4 billion. Ship recycling needs to be transformed into a modern industry with green infrastructure and compliance with international conventions.

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Foreign Employment and Remittances to Bangladesh

Crops of Bangladesh

Food and sustenance


About 475 species of fish are found in our Exclusive Economic Zone of BD. Fish still provides much-needed protein requirements for our population. Some 70,000 mechanized and non-mechanized wooden craft boats and some 250 steel-hulled industrial trawlers catch fish in coastal waters up to 60 km (in a depth of 40 m) from our coasts.

A significant amount of fish is salted and dried, mainly for human consumption. Incidentally, the use of dried fish as a source of fishmeal is gradually increasing with the intensification of fish farming and poultry farming. Hilsa shad (Tenualosa ilisha) is the largest and most valuable species with an annual catch of over 4,96,417 tons and provides employment and income for 2.5 million people worth 1 .3 billion dollars per year (BOBLME 2012, Hossain et al 2014).

Currently, 50-60% of the global hilsa catch takes place in the marine and coastal waters of Bangladesh, 20-25% in Myanmar, 15-20% in India and the remaining 5-10% in other countries. In total, in 2017 (DoF 2017), more than 245,117 tone’s of shrimp were farmed inland and caught in the Bay of Bengal, most of which goes directly to the processing plant and ends up on the American, European and Japanese markets.

In the past 10 to 15 years, live giant crabs (Scylla serrata) and eels (Muraenesox bagio) have been exported to countries in East Asia. Less than 20% of the live crabs exported come from shrimp farming by marginal herders on the coasts of Satkhira, Bagerhat and Cox’s Bazar.

Additionally, the harvest of young and small sharks and rays is drying up, while large sharks are being thrown overboard after their fins and some other body parts have been removed.

Most of the Phaisa (Setipinna phasa) caught off the coast is used to make fermented fish products.

However, below 50m water depth there is virtually no chance of catching ground fish. Longline fishing is completely absent from deep waters. In the benthic zone of the lower ocean level, crustaceans, shrimps and lobsters are caught in limited quantities, but fish near the seabed at a depth of about 150-550 m cannot be caught with the industrial cephalopod fisheries.

Use of coastal Fishes

Bangladesh must now consider other important uses for fish as is done in other countries. Fish oil could be used to liquoring of leather, tempering of metals, batching of jute and insecticidal soaps, paints and varnishes, and in pharmaceuticals.

Fish liver oil could be used to treat vitamin A and B deficiency diseases, pharmaceutical applications and animal feed formulations, fish liver residue and fish silage can be mixed with fish meal, eel fish and catfish jawbones can be made into thin strips on sheets of glass. From 1/8 to ¼ thick, it can be used as a clarifier for wine, beer, vinegar, etc.

Fish hydrolysates and peptone increase the nutritional value of foods and can be used as breeding grounds for land and sea bacteria.

Some of the important uses of chitin/chitosan and shrimp waste extracts are sizing and dyeing of textiles in cotton, wool, synthetic fabrics, paper, treatment of wounds and hyperacidity, etc.

Red algae found in Sunderban which is used as food, agar preserve cooked fish and meat, waterproof paper, ice cream, jellies, sweets, bread and biscuits, algin and alginates – from brown seaweed used in agar and sargassum, brown algae – Calcium alginate used in surgical dressings to reduce bleeding, jellyfish, snails, sea cucumbers.

Horse crabs produce various medicines, sponges and antibiotics.

The brackish water can be used for food, iodine, animal feed, fertilizers, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.

Mari culture

Mari culture or marine farming is increasingly becoming an important producer of aquatic food in coastal and deep waters, as well as a source of employment and income for many coastal communities.

Well-managed coastal aquaculture and Mari culture offers significant green growth opportunities and employment opportunities for coastal communities with low carbon emissions compared to other protein production systems.

Extraction of wild natural resources (mainly fish) for animal consumption could be carried out and used in agriculture and aquaculture. By boosting the fast growing aquaculture (up 160% over the last decade) and with its huge success in inland aquaculture, Bangladesh should replicate this knowledge in marine aquaculture for seaweed, pearls and oysters.

Strengthening regional fisheries councils, national fisheries management agencies, fishing communities and fisherman organizations and private sector associations is crucial for the sustainable and equitable use of marine resources through aquaculture. It will not be easy to introduce mariculture, but with constant training, technology and feeding according to the species selected, specific training projects with appropriate technology for the development of specific species can be carried out with fishermen.

Marine aquatic products

Marine aquatic products include the farming of marine organisms, primarily for human consumption, and all related primary processing activities.

While the farming of aquatic plants and algae has not yet evolved, the farming of aquatic animals comprises three main sub-sectors: the farming of marine shellfish (e.g. oysters and mussels), marine finfish farming and freshwater finfish farming.

Many people living in rural areas of developing countries like Bangladesh depend on aquatic resources for their food and livelihoods.

Seaweed extracts are used in the cosmetic, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical markets. There are already several products on the market, including PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) such as omega-3 and omega-6, but also antioxidants

Marine Biotechnology

It is about unlocking the potential of biodiversity in a particular part of the world for the benefit of the rest of the economy. The unexplored and understudied nature of much marine life means that the ability of marine organisms other than fish and shellfish to provide inputs to the blue economy is only just beginning to be appreciated, thanks in part to new gene sequencing technologies for living organisms.

Blue biotechnology can also contribute to the development of specific biopolymers and bio membranes that improve the overall efficiency of the desalination process. Bio stimulation can also be used to protect natural habitats by promoting bioremediation after significant contamination.

Other examples are the bioremediation of oil spills. From this example, it can be concluded that the maritime industry as a whole has a strong interest in promoting new (bio)technologies, cross-functional services and testers that benefit more than one sector and do not always bring benefits predictable.

Marine biotechnology and biotechnology research based industries are far behind. It is expected that universities and institutes will carry out research and provide them with the necessary funding and logistics to develop this promising field for future industrial growth.

 Maritime Security and Surveillance:

The overall maritime security and surveillance mechanism should be improved to improve situational awareness of all maritime activities affecting maritime economic activities. In conclusion, it is easy to say that the marine science community has paid little attention to the role of finance in the use and management of marine and ocean resources.

Investors are obviously of great importance within the maritime business community, but little attention is given to their role in the responsible management of the oceans. Policy makers at national and international levels must reach out to the financial sector and seek to engage it on a range of issues, from conservation and social protection to social entrepreneurship and the achievement of social goals.

 Any capacity building or technology transfer effort in the Blue Economy should consider how these efforts best fit the current circumstances and needs of partner institutions. Technology transfer is traditionally understood as a trade or trade-related process in the innovation chain, involving the acquisition and use of technology and the knowledge and skills to exploit it.

 A brief summary of blue economy activities that can be developed in Bangladesh is attached for your reference. A scientific approach is essential for the development of the blue economy; starting with the first assessment and critical assessment of the blue capital we have.

This will provide a basis for informed decision-making and adaptive management. This great effort must be approached and continually refined and updated to reflect changing circumstances, changing technologies, and our ever-growing understanding. or the blue economy approach fails. This highlights the importance of technical assistance, technology transfer and capacity building in the pursuit of sustainable development.

Future Importance of Maritime Activities in Bangladesh

 Current major maritime activities include extraction of living and non-living resources, land-based activities, trade and transportation, shipbuilding and shipbreaking, tourism and recreation, man-made structures, power generation, research and surveying.

Trend data shows that total fishery export earnings show an increasing trend. However, mangrove revenue data suggests that in recent years, mangrove revenue has been comparatively lower than the revenue of the 1980s and 1990s.

To further develop the blue economy, Bangladesh should focus on marine fisheries , non-traditional species, marine biotechnology, oil and petroleum, gas and mineral exploration, renewable energy, maritime trade and transport, maritime tourism and marine spatial planning.

However, lack of implementation and execution, limited management, planning and coordination actions are hampering the development of Bangladesh’s blue economy.

Therefore, a multi-stakeholder strategic management process is urgently needed for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the sea basin of Bangladesh. The lack of coordination between partners is currently considered one of the most important shortcomings for the development of maritime economic sectors in the country.

In this case, public-private partnerships seriously impede development, especially in sectors such as trade, shipping, tourism, oil and gas exploration, fish conservation and marketing, ecosystem services, the social welfare status of coastal residents, etc.

Challenges of blue economy of Bangladesh

The role of marine resources in alleviating poverty, self-sufficiency in food production, protecting the environmental balance, combating the adverse effects of climate change and other economic opportunities is limitless.

The challenges can be the following:

  • Ensure sovereignty over the entire coastal zone.
  • maintenance of security in the economic area.
  • Build a sea-friendly infrastructure for sea tourists.
  • Protection of the area against international smugglers and fish pirates.
  • Maintain a favorable environment for investment in the distinguished area.
  • Sustainable use of biodiversity.
  • Conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems.
  • Conservation of mangroves and seagrasses.
  • Fight against climate change and management of CO2 emissions.
  • Perpetuating sea level rise and altering ecosystems and temperatures due to coral bleaching.
  • Address ocean acidification and blue carbon.
  • Maintain the marine area free of pollution and marine debris.
  • Population growth, intensification of agriculture.


 Bangladesh needs to remove barriers to create better conditions for the development of maritime innovation and economy. Existing financing instruments/mechanisms are not good enough to support the development of the blue economy.

Finally, we must encourage partnerships between public authorities and economist to foster economies of scale and enhance mutual learning and investment, and explore global market opportunities for the international dimension of the blue economy.

To improve food security, eradicate poverty and create shared prosperity, world leaders, ocean professionals, scientists and representatives from governments, businesses, civil society and national and international organizations must unite to create partnerships. , investment frameworks and new financing tools to turn the tide not only on ocean health, but also on how marine resources can be used for economic empowerment.

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