‘Ship-Creators of Mighty Bangladesh’

“Steeping into the muddy shiphub my eyes stumble on barefooted children playing ‘Akka Dokka’. By following their queries giggles I smiled to the little-girl next to me asking ‘What to your father do’?  With a wide smile showing her recently missing baby teeth’s, she whispered ‘My father builds big big ships’. The place is familiar to me so as these children but I rejoice these moments every day when I jump from my boat and my day start with ‘big big ships’.  I walk towards to Ship Creators, to the people that the world knows little about. Step to them, who are building ships on a daily basis with their expertise, power, energy and who dream to make something big, bigger than their life, bigger than their identity, bigger than their credits without much expectation. ”


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In the shipyard every worker is full of activity, no one have any time to talk. Constant work with flame, sound and dust may seem intolerable. Especially the constant ‘Dhang-Dhang-Dhang’ sounds of steel and hammer will auto upgrade any ones heart beat. But to the workers it’s their daily doze.  These Ship-craft-masters never get tired often handle everything in spite of getting any structural design keep building ships on their own effort with their basic genetic talent without any break. Frequently without goggles, risking serious injury or blindness, they all climb tall rope ladders to the ships’ highest points to retrieve items, risking death if they slip but yet happily they keep working in the pleasure of building the ship

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A laborer is standing in the ship which just arrived for renovation

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Bangladesh is set to emerge as a new export leader for building small ships after cutting deals worth over $ 250 million last year alone. More than 250,000 skilled and semi-skilled workers are employed in the shipbuilding industry Bangladesh. All inland and coastal ships are constructed and repaired locally in these Bangladeshi shipyards. Bangladesh has all the ingredients to turn itself into a hub of export oriented shipbuilding for small and medium-sized vessels. The full utilization of the opportunities that are now present in the global shipbuilding market can turn this sector into a billion dollar industry within a decade. In recent times, a dozen shipyards are expanding their capacity for building ocean-going ships to enter the international market.

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** (There are more than one hundred shipyards and workshops in Bangladesh, most of them are privately owned shipyards. Out of these shipyards, approximately 70 per cent are located in and around Dhaka and Narayanganj along the side of the river bank of Buriganga, Shitalakha and Meghna. About 20 per cent shipyards of Chittagong division are located along the side of the Karnapuli river and six per cent are located along the bank of the Poshur River in Khulna division while the remaining for per cent are located in Barisal division)

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Availability of cheap human input is the main strength of the country and this is one of the main determinants in allowing this labour intensive industry to flourish. Also, easily trainable workers can provide this country with a decisive edge over other prospective countries. Bangladesh is in very much an advantageous position in this respect as labour cost is the cheapest among other shipbuilding countries around the world. But it alleys not that only for livelihood these ship-creators give their labour to this industry. Their dream, their hope ties with it and it’s in their gene to build ships.  But the work is sporadic, and after paying the rent on the family’s tiny bamboo shack, workers has barely forty cents left to feed each of the family members. With no other options, workers usually sat their eldest son down in the work. An armature’s job would add $2.20 to the family’s daily budget. Still they build their hopes, build their ships with or without expectation.

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Mishir Mia and his 25 member’s team seat silently beside the shipyard. After working two long years their team builds a world class ship. It will sail within short time. No one was answering my repeated questions. After a long break Mishir Mia said “Let me bring my son sir. I will show him the ship. He will become a marine engineer one day; then he will bravely share with friends that without any degree his father once built big big ships. Let me go Sir. I will answer you later.”  Team of 25 labours is sign of victory. It’s our victory. It’s Tribute to their bravery, their silent involvement in the economy. Aren’t we seeing a mighty Bangladesh?

– GMB Akash

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73 thoughts on “‘Ship-Creators of Mighty Bangladesh’

  1. Akash, been following your work for some time and this is one of the most visually impactful series. I never knew about this great industry and story of industries people in your country. Each of these shots is a delight. thank you for sharing.


  2. I’m completely captivated by your portraits and the story you’ve woven. Thank you for sharing a piece of these shipbuilders’ lives with us. And many congratulations on being freshly pressed! I look forward to following your work.


  3. Your photographs are incredible, the portraits especially. One can sense the amount of effort these workers are putting into their work, and the great pride they have for their ships, just by looking into their eyes!


  4. Amazing, breath-taking, colorful photos and writing!!!! What a story. What a place. What hard work these men do. What a life. I am in awe. Have friends from Bangladesh. Hope to visit someday soon. Thanks for sharing.


  5. What a fascinating look into a seldom seen industry and its workers. I’m sure thousands of people have walked by the shipyards and never given a second thought to the lives of those labourers. But you my friend, you see past the piles of steel and the dust to bring us images bursting with colour and stories of men that take pride in their work, even with so little compensation. Excellent.
    Little wonder your story is included in ‘Freshly Pressed’. Congratulations once again Akash.


  6. I have seen documentaries on the shipbuilders. You have captured beautifully in your photos the color, the sweat and the danger of their jobs. Stunning visuals. Thanks. I am looking forward to following your blog and of course, congrats on being freshly pressed!


  7. Fabulous Work! Thanks for sharing this wonderful photo story of Bangladeshi shipbuilders. These hard working people deserve more. They have so little yet not afraid to have big dreams.


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