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 Infrastructure development in the port sector

Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Minister of Environment, The Chief Guest, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Deputy Minister of Ports and Highways, Guest of Honour, Dr. Priyath Wickrema, Chairman Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Ralph Anandappa Chairman, Walter Rodrigo, Vice Chairman and Dhammika Walgampaya, Secretary General, CASA, at the AGM

The 46th Annual General meeting of the Ceylon Association of Ships’ Agents was held at the Hilton Colombo recently, followed by a Banquet at the Grand Ballroom.

The Chief Guest at this event was Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Minister of Environment and the Guest of Honour was, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Deputy Miniser of Ports and Highways.

Chairman elect Ralph Anandappa in his address referred to the history of CASA to 1944, when it was first established as the Ceylon Shipping Committee, before evolving to be known as CASA from 1966. Over the years CASA has provided invaluable assistance to its membership and earned for itself the accolade “the leading voice of the Shipping Industry”. CASA works through a process of interchange of ideas, information and business methods as a means of increasing the efficiency and usefulness of members.

CASA also occupies a position of consultancy and advocacy vis a vis our numerous stakeholders, particularly policy makers, top government officials and other agencies.

Ships’ agents over the years have contributed immensely in re-investing their earnings in related and unrelated diversification making a positive impact on the economy and importantly generating employment both in a sustainable manner.

The role of the agent has evolved, as we know, from that of a traditional one to a value added partner, an extended arm of our principals, fulfilling a very demanding and challenging role in a dynamic environment.

The international scenario now unfolding is also challenging. Rating agencies and investors services are ‘downbeat’ on the outlook for the global shipping industry. Sustained oversupply of vessels and high bunker costs will pressure margins in most shipping segments in 2012.

The outlook for the next 12 to 18 months is negative. Some of the agencies expect the aggregate earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of the global shipping industry to decline by 5-10% in 2012. There are reports that economic growth in US, Europe & China is flagging.

As a country we have freed ourselves from a near three decade internal strife thanks to the determined leadership of the President. This achievement alone provides the platform for country wide development to take off. We have seen progress already in some quarters. Much needs to be done still.

Infrastructure development in the port sector is of particular significance and importance to CASA. The SLPA under the leadership of its young and energetic Chairman, Dr. Wickrema and his team has demonstrated tremendous commitment and drive in strengthening this sector. Apart from adding capacity with the construction of new ports and terminals the SLPA has also taken very progressive steps in refleeting and renewing terminal equipment, improving infrastructure, and introducing IT enabled solutions – in general upgrading and enhancing the capabilities of existing facilities for the benefit of shipping lines and our customers. SAGT has also taken positive measures for the benefit of lines and the trade. CICT will further strengthen the sector.

Sri Lanka is therefore, in a very strong position to capitalize on our comparative advantage with truly world class ports and terminal services on offer to shipping lines. The steps taken to introduce an electronic environment for data interchange by Sri Lanka Customs and SLPA are an added benefit. The government’s focus on boosting exports and the very ambitious targets set would augur well for shipping in SL. Research studies have revealed that Sri Lanka’s trade index will perform increasingly better than the world’s average over the next 15 years. Over the next 5 years trade with developing countries is expected to increase offsetting the fall in demand from developed trading partners.

With the focus shifting to Asia to fuel the growth of global trade it is quite clear that SL will continue to expand its role as a regional shipping centre while strengthening her role as a valued trading partner.

Meanwhile, CASA will continue to engage the authorities with a view to address matters concerning our membership in order to enhance service delivery to our principals and customers. From our members I would like to ask a deeper involvement with the secretariat headed by. Walgampaya - share ideas, information and business methods with him.

CASA is a mature organization with a wealth of experience in the hands of our members and we need to harness that experience and channel it for the growth and benefit of all our members and that of the industry.

More recently vehicle carriers commenced calling the Magam Ruhunupura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port increasing the volume of transshipment of vehicles.

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