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 MD urges high standards on ship suppliers

Captain Nihal Keppetipola

“For those in the maritime business, the oceans and seas truly represent an “ocean of economic opportunity”. The maritime economy is spread over 360 million square kilometers of oceans and seas which connect the world’s five continents.

Shipping - a direct consequence of this geographical reality - has become the lifeblood of the global economy. Experiencing a mix of ups and downs from time to time, it has grown fourfold in the last forty years, and, has still to reach its peak.

This boom translates into full order books for shipyards with ensuing benefits for their suppliers and customers in the wider maritime cluster” said the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Managing Director Captain Nihal Keppetipola. Participating as the guest speaker at the 35th Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Ship Suppliers Association held Hotel Ramada in Colombo last week.

Keppetipola urged Ship Suppliers to maintain high standards in their service delivery since they are a partner of an international business. ``Your institution must be attuned to the changing needs of the market.

The timely availability of your services to the customers alone is not enough but the quality of your service should also be of the highest standards. You should not encourage your membership to form cartels and you should always try to avail them of a level playing field to ensure fair competition.

To achieve this, the Sri Lanka Ship Suppliers Association should be strong and act in unison to ensure that its membership adheres to the above values, thus ensuring the esteem and the credibility of SLPA” he said.

It is often said that ship suppliers are among the oldest professions in the world. The genesis of ship chandelling in Sri Lanka can be traced back to the 11th century. Those days the principal sea port Mahatitta or Mantai was located in the land area opposite the modern Mannar town. It is recorded that this was an international sea port where traders from Persia, Egypt, China, Arabia and other Far Eastern countries met. They traded in pearls, oysters, and elephant tusks etc.

“In a sense, ship supply is more than a business. It has always been an activity based on trust, through which suppliers look after the necessities of the Master and crew and establish solid, sometimes lifelong, commercial relationships between shipping companies and port communities. Ship suppliers play an essential role, enabling the whole system to work smoothly.

Without them, the complex world of maritime logistics could not work, as they enable ships, of all sizes and characteristics, with very different schedules and requirements, to be ready for non-stop operation in all our ports. Ship suppliers today represent a growing sector which has contributed to the creation of added value and jobs in our ports” said Keppetipola.

The post-war economy has certainly created a very conducive climate for economic prosperity. The country is now on a strong path ready to convert itself to a major maritime hub connecting the Indian subcontinent with the east and the west.

Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say at this juncture that the maritime sector in Sri Lanka has a pivotal role to play in this ensuing economic transformation.

Keppetipola further said that SLPA has built a solid and robust foundation for the ship supply business to flourish and that Ship Suppliers can doubtless rest assured in the very near future with ample business opportunities. Keppetipola elaborated the development projects that the SLPA has currently undertaken towards this end.

The Colombo Port Expansion Project has been expedited and its first terminal is scheduled to be operational by end 2012. The phase I of the Hambantota Port Project has marked its successful culmination by now and it is expected that the first vessel will touch the waters of the Hambantota Port on November 18, this year.

The second phase of the harbour construction project will commence in November this year at a cost of US $ 800 million. The second phase will be completed within three and a half years.

“The development work at Oluvil port is also expected to reach its culmination by the end of this year. The Galle Port is also being developed as a cruise destination with a view to reaping the economic benefits of the lucrative tourism industry which is now booming in Sri Lanka.

This is also another potential area you can focus on in the future. Twenty seven acres of land in Peliyagoda area, close to the Colombo Port will be converted to a Cargo Village having the infrastructure to handle all logistics operations which include MCC, warehousing, stuffing/destuffing, customs inspection and banking.

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