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SL ports should evolve beyond transhipment

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 Ministry of Ports and Shipping and Southern Development Secretary Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake  presenting the final draft of the National Policy for Maritime and Logistics Sectors to Minister of Ports and Shipping and Southern Development Sagala Ratnayaka. SLPA Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka, Managing Director Captain Athula Hewawitharana, Merchant Shipping Director General A.W. Seneviratne, LAUGFS Terminals CEO H.D.A.S. Premachandra, Ministry Additional Secretary (Development) K.N. Kumari Somarathne, Additional Secretary (Admin and Finance) H.M.L.S. Herath, McLarens Group Joint Managing Director Shehara Jayawardana, CASS Chairman Saliya Senanayake and SAGT CEO Romesh David are also present


  • National Policy for Maritime and Logistics sectors recommends transformation from regional transhipment to global maritime hub 
  • Says ports should evolve to be ahead of industry demands to remain competitive  
  • Policy presented to Minister by Ministry Secy    


Sri Lanka’s ports should reduce dependency on Indian transhipment and become global maritime hubs, the National Policy for Maritime and Logistics Sectors has recommended, as it would improve their competitiveness.   The recommendations were outlined in the final draft of the National Policy for Maritime and Logistics Sectors that was presented to Minister of Ports and Shipping and Southern Development Sagala Ratnayaka by Ministry Secretary Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake.

The policy was drafted by the Committee comprising leading experts on maritime affairs, chaired by Dr. Dissanayake. 

Around 80 stakeholders participated during the formulation of the policy.

According to the policy, “Major Sri Lankan ports need to transform themselves from ‘regional transhipment hubs’ to ‘global maritime hubs’ in order to face the competition from emerging new regional transhipment ports as well as traditional global competitors. Continued dependence on the Indian subcontinent for a major portion of business will no longer be possible, due to emerging regional competition, expansion of direct mainliner service to traditional feeder ports. and changes in cabotage laws, etc.”

While valuing and appreciating the efforts by all parties involved in drafting this comprehensive and comparative policy on maritime, a lifeline of the country, the Minister requested feedback from interested parties and the general public. He has ensured the promulgation of this national policy as quickly as possible. 

Minister Ratnayaka also acknowledged the governing supports of his predecessor, former Minister of Ports and Shipping Mahinda Samarasinghe, on this national initiative. 

Meanwhile, in his brief introduction during the event, Dr. Dissanayake clarified the importance of this historic national policy and how would elevate the developments of the maritime affairs in the country. 

A document of around 150 pages comprehensively detailed the strategies, suggested actions and coordinating role of each party while addressing the urgent requirements of the maritime and logistics sectors in Sri Lanka. It has addressed several areas of the subject including ports and related infrastructure; development of maritime related services; ships, ship owning, ship and crew management, shipping and NVOCC agency, coastal shipping; development of logistics and intermodal infrastructure, harmonisation of regulatory framework; maritime safety, security, marine pollution prevention, maritime training; promotion of SMEs in maritime and logistics; and restrictive practices in maritime and logistics.  

One of the aims of this National Policy is to “encourage sustainable port development to cater to long-term forecasted growth in volumes of imports and exports and transhipment trades by sea, with a competitive and efficient port industry capable of meeting the needs of importers and exporters in a cost-effective and timely manner, thus contributing to long-term economic growth and prosperity of Sri Lanka,” Dr. Dissanayake said, quoting the final draft of the National Policy. 

The vision of this National Policy is to “become a leading global maritime and logistics hub while maintaining a premier status in regional maritime and logistics by affording and facilitating the best technology and convenience to all stakeholders thus facilitating the economic growth in Sri Lanka.”

“Sri Lanka’s maritime and logistics business generates much-needed foreign exchange to the country. The particular sector includes domestic and transhipment container operations, a range of logistical services, ship repairs, supply of bunkers and ship spares, maritime education and training, logistics and supply chain management, etc. Of the above, container operation is the single largest source of foreign exchange,” the policy assessed.

“While some global container hub ports recorded a decline in throughput, Sri Lanka’s main commercial port; the Port of Colombo, showed resilient growth, in the last few years. As a result, in 2018, the Port of Colombo elevated to a greater position in the global container-port league, registering a throughput of over seven million TEUs. Sri Lanka’s Port of Colombo has advanced to occupy a leading position in the world as one of the best-connected ports with over 59 mainline services calling each week, placing it ahead of other regional ports while it was placed marginally behind the world’s leading ports,” the policy further observed.

 “One needs to recognise the fact that all major global hubs are relay centres for major shipping lines. The share of relay traffic in global hubs far exceeds the share of hub and spoke transhipment thus making them less vulnerable to emergence of regional competition. However, this change will require development of port and logistics facilities well ahead of such demand. Sri Lanka has hitherto followed a policy of waiting for demand to push before new port/terminal facilities are to be developed. This policy allowed other regional hubs to overtake Colombo in the past. It is, therefore, necessary to shift the development policy from ‘demand-driven’ to ‘supply-driven,’” the final draft of National Policy for Maritime and Logistics Sectors has suggested.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Managing Director Captain Athula Hewawitharana, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Executive Director Dr. Emerick Fernando, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Additional Managing Director D. Upali De Zoysa, directors of Sri Lanka Ports Authority, several stakeholders and experts of the subject were present at the event.


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