A feeder vessel docks at Jaye Container Terminal of Port of Colombo for operation (Photo: Rashmika Pathirana, Sri Lanka Ports Authority)
By Nilantha Ilangamuwa
The United Nations Conference On Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in its new Review of Maritime Transport 2022 has revealed that the Port of Colombo is the highest-performing port in South Asia.
The Review of Maritime Transport is a recurrent publication prepared by the UNCTAD secretariat since 1968 with the aim of fostering the transparency of maritime markets and analysing relevant developments.
The data in the report suggested that despite the challenges of socio-political turbulence the country is struggling to overcome, the Colombo Port has remarkably improved its global rank. According to the Container Port Performance Index 2022 initiated by the World Bank and S&P Global Port Performance Program quoted in the Review, Colombo Port, which was ranked 33rd last year, has been ranked 24th this year.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port, which ranked second last year, has been ranked first this year, while Japan’s Yokohama Port, ranked first last year, has ranked 10th this year.
Meanwhile, the review finds that Asia remained the world’s leading maritime cargo handling centre in 2021, accounting for 42% of exports and 64% of imports. However, this annual comprehensive review of global maritime transport, warns that the maritime sector will require greater investment in infrastructure and sustainability to weather future supply chain crises.
The report further observed that in 2021, around 40% of total containerised trade was on the main East-West routes – between Asia, Europe and the United States. Non-mainlane East-West routes such as South Asia-Mediterranean accounted for 12.9%.
In 2021, maritime trade recovery was disrupted by supply chain problems, then in 2022 the situation deteriorated further with the impact of recurrent COVID-19 infections, especially in China, and labour strikes in ports and the logistics sector, including in the Republic of Korea. In 2022, there were new waves of COVID-19 infections that further disrupted supply chains, particularly in China, which had a zero-COVID policy.
Assessing the Review, the UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said that: “We need to learn from the current supply chain crisis and prepare better for future challenges and transitions. This includes enhancing intermodal infrastructure, fleet renewal and improving port performance and trade facilitation. And we must not delay the decarbonisation of shipping.”
UNCTAD is the UN’s leading institution dealing with trade and development. It is a permanent intergovernmental body established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1964. UNCTAD is part of the UN Secretariat and has a membership of 195 countries, one of the largest in the UN system. UNCTAD supports developing countries to access the benefits of a globalised economy more fairly and effectively.