Data centres and international conferences: Steering NES Logistics Sector Strategy

Friday, 6 September 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Rohan Masakorala and Sanjeeva Abeygoonewardena, Export Development Board Logistics Advisory Committee members

Section of the university students at the Colombo International Logistics Conference


CILC 2019 speakers and Organising Committee with Chief Guest and Guest of Honour

In an evolving regional and global context, progress has been made through the National Export Strategy (NES) on Sri Lanka’s aspirations to become South Asia’s leading maritime, logistics and distributions hub. The country is geographically well-positioned in South Asia at the crossroads of the fastest-growing region in the world. Thus, the Sri Lankan logistics industry is conscious of the increased competition and the systemic digitisation of the sector. These challenges highlight the need for accelerated structural reforms in the logistics sector. 

The development of the Logistics Sector Strategy, a key enabler of trade and exports through the NES was a collective endeavour by public and private stakeholders. It will consolidate Sri Lanka’s existing strengths to achieve broad sector goals. A year into its implementation the Logistics Advisory Committee (AC) – a public-private engagement platform sanctioned by the Export Development Act (1979) – has been actively mobilising resources to create a healthy and enabling policy and regulatory environment – as envisioned by the Logistics Strategy 2018-2022. 

Two of the many rewarding outcomes of the implementation period are the recently concluded Colombo International Logistics Conference and the establishment of a Logistics Data Centre. 

Optimising data collection for better logistics services

Guided by the strategic objective to provide adequate facilities to increase the number and quality of logistics operations, the AC commenced operationalising a priority action item to establish a specialised data collection and analysis unit. The unit will identify sector bottlenecks, simplify the process of data collection/management, and reduce the overall logistics related costs. 

To effectively mobilise resources and bandwidth for this activity, the AC endorsed a sub-working group comprising of members of the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS), Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), University of Moratuwa (UoM), Department of Customs (DoC), Board of Investment (BoI) and private sector members from the Logistics AC representing the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) and Mountain Hawke Express. Chaired by the DCS and steered by the private sector members of the AC – the working group concurred on the need to bridge an industry-oriented data gap for logistics. 

While the DCS offers a broad overview of sector related data, the private sector presented the value addition of possessing sector data with more depth and accuracy. As the way forward, a proposal has been made for the DCS to leverage the data management strengths of the University of Moratuwa, Department of Transport and Logistics Management to set up a central statistical repository for data collection and analysis. 

Collaboratively the committee has agreed on the following data deep-dive parameters: warehousing, shipping services, logistics, and freight forwarders. Sanjeeva Abeygoonewardena, a member of the Logistics AC, representing Mountain Hawke Express who is actively involved in creating this unit mentioned, “The data centre will largely benefit the private sector and other related stakeholders, to validate and ascertain information in making better decisions. More importantly, any organisation must have the right to information in an organised manner at their convenience. We believe that having information from one trusted partner with data sets will be the first step towards making better-informed decisions. This is fundamental to where we are now and to where we envision ourselves in the future.” 

Rohan Masakorala the Chairman of the AC said that it is important to both Government and the private sector to have credible data to invest and take the correct decision for the sector in the future and their subcommittee team has done a lot of work toward this project of the NES.

Futuristic: Promoting 

Sri Lanka and connecting university graduates with industry

Promoting Sri Lanka as a logistics hub in the region through impactful marketing campaigns is also an objective endorsed by the NES Logistics Strategy. Pursuing this vision, the Colombo International Maritime Conference Events recently touched a milestone by concluding its third major international event in Colombo and the fifth in the region – the Colombo International Logistics Conference (CILC) 2019. The event was a timely platform to open a fresh dialogue among sector stakeholders to best understand the evolving nature of the industry and to discuss the steps Sri Lanka is taking to become a world class competitor in logistics. 

Endorsed and supported by the Government of Sri Lanka, the event was inaugurated by Patron Karu Jayasuriya and the Guest of Honour Sagala Ratnayaka on the day of the 40th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. The conference boasted well over 40 diverse range of high profile domestic and international speakers representing the private sector, foreign delegations, and policymakers. With an overarching theme of strategic positioning, connectivity and growth potential, the speakers and panellists reflected on Sri Lanka’s emerging role in the logistics market as a regional competitor. 

The two-day event was also enriched by technical deep dives led by domestic and international sector specialists, macro areas discussed in the event included: Hambantota International Port and its role in maritime logistics, developments in the global logistics industry, regional developments in logistics, air cargo for logistics, insights in to banking and e-documents by UNCTAD, apparel supply chain logistics, and the how the fourth industrial revolution bundled with technological enhancements can transform the sector.

Rohan Masakorala who chairs the logistics AC of the EDB, was the Chairman of the CILC 2019 organising committee and said the main objective was to bring in quality international speakers and forums to Sri Lanka and to promote Sri Lanka as a destination for logistics. One of the most important parts of the conference was to sponsor 125 students (with the support of many individuals/organisations from the industry) from five government and semi government universities for this event as it is also a part of the NES Points of Actions (PoA) to give international exposure for university students to understand the real working of the logistics industry and to get to know industry leaders. This was a huge success, he said.

Through full-time direct and indirect employment of over 50,000 people in the industry and a 2.5% contribution to GDP via international logistics services, the sector has an ambitious vision to transition and grow from a traditional transshipment hub to a regional logistics centre making 7% of GDP. With priority investment segments identified across logistics infrastructure – complemented by targeted investment campaigns – the logistics sector is ready to take on industry transformation 4.0 and contribute to all export sectors as the cross-cutting champion for export growth. This is a possible task if macro level reforms are expedited.