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 Sri Lanka connecting to compete – a constructive dialogue through public private partnership held at the CCC


A gathering of professionals of the shipping industry along with the Chairman and the Managing Director  of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority(SLPA) took place at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on 30 August 2010. 

Taking a new and a constrictive direction, the Management of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority has embarked to engage the private sector to make its vision of becoming a regional hub a reality. It was also the first time such an initiative was taken to discuss issues in an open forum so that development projects could be executed with greater understanding. Issues concerning short term, medium term and long term were raised as the topic was Sri Lanka: Connecting to Compete – Port of Colombo; what are the prospects/threats’. 

Expressing his views at the discussions, the Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Dr. Priyath B. Wickrema said that it was a timely requirement to have a dialogue at a common platform and specially with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. He emphasized positive communication and the relationship with the private sector was indeed a good recipe for rapid development and also said that he as the Chairman and his management at SLPA will always appreciate constructive criticism.  

Explaining to the large gathering of private sector industrialists and service providers, Dr Wicrama said that SLPA is happy to note that the Port of Colombo will pass the 4 million TEU mark at the end of this year and is confident that Sri Lanka will handle more than 10 million TEUs by 2020.  

He also went on to explain that the rapid growth shown during the current year, the SLPA will reach its capacities one year ahead of schedule. The Port Authority has taken series of measures and is in the process of adopting new processes to meet this challenge successfully. Compared to the year 2009, SLPA is growing at a rate of around 23% and is expected to reach a new milestone by this month by handling 200,000 TEUs in a single month. Chairman explained that at the moment the SLPA handles 24 main lines and 14 feeder operators. He also pointed out that due to the volume increases; the staying time of vessels in the Port also has increased for obvious reasons. 

Explaining some of the measures taken by SLPA, he said that the JCT has to go through a rapid modernization process as for the last 25 years little has been done to upgrade the facility. As a first step, they have introduced a new terminal management system and also going though a trial GPRS module at the Unity Container Terminal (UCT). After the trail are completed, the system will be implemented at the Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) as well. These measures would largely reduce delays  at the yards and ease traffic congestion within the terminal. 

The Chairman explained that the Authority has taken measures to build new support berths and to modernize yard area. He also informed that new equipment will be arriving during the first half of next year following a special approval granted by the Cabinet of Ministers to expedite Port related activities. The SLPA had also recently taken prompt measures to resolve the ITT issues that had created some congestion and hindered port work. Yard renovation activities have been done by utilizing SLPA’s own work force which had resulted in a cost saving of more than Rs. 250 million to the authority. 

In order to facilitate the trade, the Port Authority has dicided to construct a 350,000 sq.ft. 22 storied administration building. Dr. Wickrama explained that all service providers could be located in this building and the building itself would be linked to the new customs building where users could enjoy a one stop shop facility for port and customs related activity. He expressed confidence that the construction of the new administration building would be commenced by the end of this year and will be completed within 18 months.   

The trade was also informed that the SLPA has got new land provided by the Urban Development Authority to construct a new and a modern cargo village to facilitate the domestic industry. This was an alternative to the Bloemendhal premises earmarked earlier. The new facility will be serviced by many road links as well as rail link connecting to the Port of Colombo. 

Dr. Wickrama explaining  on other regional port development projects in the country said that the new Magampura Port (Hambantota) first stage will be fully completed by November 2010 and also hopes to start the second phase of the project immediately thereafter. While the new port will handle break bulk and general cargo, in addition to servicing ships the Port will be equipped with container handling equipment as well, and the Port will expand its berthing facilities from an initial three berths to four berths within a short period. The Chairman invited the industries to come and invest in the new Magampura port as the opportunities are growing day by day with many international investors keen to invest in the new port facility. 

Addressing the gathering, the Managing Director of the SLPA, Capt. Nihal Keppetipola said that SLPA is quite aware of the potential challenges and threats, but are very confident of overcoming them. He said that competition is always good and also said that as South Asia being a leading trading block led by India will always give more opportunity for Sri Lankan ports to be the real link between the East and the West. The MD also explained that Magampura port would facilitate  as a free zone area giving wider avenues for the industrialists and service providers and that this kind of a concept had never taken place in the country even after liberalizing for 30 years. He also said that they are looking at a similar mechanisms to facilitate port of Colombo users as well. 

Dr. Anura Ekanayake – Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Mr.Mohan Pandithage – Chairman of Hayleys PLC, Dr.Parakrama Dissanayake – Director of Aitken Spense PLC, Mr.Rohan Masakorala -  Secretary General of the Asian Shippers’ Council, along with leaders of trade associations namely SLSC, CASA, SLAFFA and SLAVO spoke at the gathering to exchange views and ideas with the Chairman and Ports authority officials.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority
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Colombo 01, Sri Lanka.
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