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A taskforce to advise on shipping issues is the need of the hour: ICS Chair


Following is the speech delivered by Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) - UK Sri Lanka Branch Chairman Lalith Witanachchi at the organisation’s 22nd Annual Awards Ceremony. Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, Public Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne, ICS Sri Lanka Branch Vice Chairman Manjula Agalawatta, ICS Sri Lanka Branch Secretary Anoma Ranasinghe, ICS Fellow members and members, distinguished invitees and ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to welcome you all this evening to the 22nd Annual Awards Ceremony, the flagship event of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers - UK, and also an important event in the shipping almanac of the local industry.

I feel particularly honoured to have the presence of Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya as our chief guest this evening and also the presence of Minsiter Arjuna Ranatunga and Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne. Ladies and gentlemen, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is the senior-most member of the ICS Sri Lanka Branch and was the first Asian to be bestowed with the honour of being the chief guest at the International Awards Ceremony of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers - UK, which event was held in London,

a few years ago. Today, we are indeed proud to note that one of our members, a true professional who takes pride in living up to the spirit of the ICS motto ‘Our word our bond’, in word and in deed, is aptly appointed as the Speaker of Parliament and what great honour it is for us to have him as our chief guest this evening. Sir, may I mention, the consistency you have shown in attending our Annual Awards Ceremonies despite your busy schedules is exemplary. Thank you sir for graciously accepting our invitation for this evening’s award ceremony. Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, it is our privilege to have your distinguished presence this evening. May I humbly submit sir, you have assumed command of the local shipping industry as its subject minister, at a crucial juncture when the industry is starving for proper leadership and guidance. Of course, there is no doubt a challenging task is ahead of you. But then,

you are well-known to be a strong-willed person and also known to take challenges head-on with great success. My mind swiftly rewinds back to your cricketing days in the year 1996 when you astutely lead with great courage and determination a young Sri Lankan team – who were the underdogs - steamrolling your opponents to emerge victorious and win the World Cup for Sri Lanka. With age, I am sure those inherent characteristics have also matured in you like vintage scotch and wine. As you all know, the maritime industry is considered the lifeblood of international trade and global economy. More than 90 percent of world merchandise from raw material, machinery, equipment to consumer goods, estimated to be around nine billion tons, annually is carried by ships across the oceans.

The maritime commercial shipping has now achieved a high level of efficiency for low-cost movements of goods immensely contributing to economic globalization. In Sri Lanka’s perspective, the country being an island nation and its economy to a greater extent depending on import and export trade, primarily an efficient and cost-effective maritime connectivity is undoubtedly an important prerequisite for the overall economic progress of the country. It is also important that we have to make more economic use of the country’s strategic geographical location promoting it as the ‘maritime hub’ in the region.

There is a wide range of maritime-related business activities such as trans-shipment, shipbuilding and repairs, logistic centres, ship management, maritime education, marine insurance, surveyors and brokering, financing, etc., which can be attracted and promoted in maritime centres across the island by creating pro-business policy environments. Human skills vital One vital area which draws attention is the continuous development of human skills.

Technological developments in the sea transport sector over the past few decades, especially in terms of containerization, have stressed the necessity to recognize this fact and act positively in this all important area. In this respect, one thing remains pertinent – the need for focused and relevant training; capable of attracting high-quality and talented individuals who see shipping for what it is – an important, vibrant and growing industry. Sir, over the last 100 years, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers - UK has earned an unmatched global reputation from the international shipping industry’s major players as the only professional body dedicated to commercial shipping worldwide. The postnominal initials MICS and FICS make a point of difference in very difficult and ever changing service sector, which remains dependent on the knowledge and trust of its key decision-makers. Governments across the world are seeking specialist ICS opinion on relevant shipping issues. Minister, in the context of the local shipping industry, the need of the hour is for the state administrative machinery to have in place a vibrant consultative mechanism or forum comprising shipping professionals to provide appropriate advice to them to formulate effective solutions with issues related to shipping. It reminds me to recall that in the year 1996, the then Shipping Minister - late Ashroff,

appointed a taskforce for the formulation of a National Shipping Policy for Sri Lanka. Mind you sir, this is a point we have been repeating every year at our awards ceremony. The contribution made by ICS Sri Lanka Branch as a Member of the Task Force was immense and significant. Unfortunately however, due to his sudden demise the document never saw the light of the day. Today, we could proudly boast of having a port with three terminals,

including the deep draft terminal, with an annual capacity of 2.5 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEUs), which is capable of accommodating MEGA ships which are now being inducted into shipping services which of necessity require deep draft facilities. Moreover, shipping companies are facing challenging times with vessel over capacity and still new ships being added to services and having to compete for less cargo volumes causing very depressed freight levels. Resultantly, ship-owners/operators are demanding more productive, cost efficient and quality port services. The Terminal operators have to understand these circumstances when making their policies and strategies. Sir, as a professional body, we are ever so willing and readily available at your disposal to extend whatever possible assistance you may need in steering the future course of the Sri Lanka shipping industry under your astute leadership.

Minister, these are just a few thoughts I embarked upon to share with humility but there are many more for which neither the time nor this forum is appropriate. However, let me once again humbly reiterate that ICS Sri Lanka is always available to share our expertise in the broader interest of the development of our own shipping industry.

To all of you who will be receiving your diplomas, membership and awards tonight, I wish to mention, that the single most important factor in the shipping industry is the individual. Professionally qualified individuals are better placed to make better decisions on behalf of themselves, their companies and their clients. Professionalism couples, a comprehensive understanding of one’s business with trust and integrity. ICS members combine the knowledge gained through study and proven through examination with business ethics that Imports confidence into the industry worldwide and epitomize themselves as genuine professionals.

Finally, let me wish the recipients of awards all well and request them to maintain the highest standards of ethics in their thoughts and action as a true professional and always live up to the institute’s motto ‘Our word our bond’, indeed a hallmark of professionalism in this global Industry

(DM - 28022016)

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