By Sunimalee Dias
Colombo port is today witnessing a growth rate of 33% compared to 2010 while remaining firm on gaining over 4.5 million TEUs by the end of the year.
It is believed that by 2013 when the Colombo South Harbour would be commissioned the port would be able to gain by a further 1.5 million TEUs. These observations were made by Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Chairman Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama at a seminar conducted by the Import Section of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on Friday in Colombo.
The Colombo Port Expansion Project (CPEP) is expected to add a further 7.5 million TEUs upon completion of all terminals.
The government’s strategy for port development is to convert Sri Lanka into an import/export service port, he said while delivering the presentation on the topic “Present Development Plan, Status and Infrastructure of the Sri Lanka Ports and its Vision.”
Dr. Wickrama dismissed allegations of inability for large ships to enter the Hambantota port noting that these were “incorrect rumours”.
He noted the government had conducted a feasibility study over a period of two years prior to commencing the project.
“There is no issue at the entrance,” he pointed out adding that it “can take any ship below 4.5 metres.”
Phase II of the project is to add five berths due to the demand for which the government has received 27 proposals, he said.
It was pointed out that this port is set to become a service and logistics hub while being a free port as part of a public private partnership and a one stop shop for investors and port users. It will also serve as a bonded port; Dr. Wickrama said adding that legislation will be in place next month for the gazetting of the port as a free port.
Both bunkering and dockyard facilities will also be available at the Hambantota port, he outlined.
It is expected to bring in its first ship once all requirements have been established with the required facilities provided for port users.
In order to become increasingly attractive the government has engaged in providing a rebate scheme as well, he said.
Explaining the developments at the other ports around the country, he noted that in Galle work has already commenced on the Yacht Marina which will also have a 600 metre long straight line berth for passenger vessels.
In the meantime, by May/June the entire project at the Oluvil port is set to be completed, he said adding that in Colombo a cargo village is being set up at Peliyagoda.
With a large number of projects coming up in the region for port development, Sri Lanka needs to complete its projects on time “otherwise we might lose the hub status,” noted Dr. Wickrama.
Greenlanka’s Capt. Rajendra urges for speedier solutions
Greenlanka Shipping Group Executive Director Capt. A.V. Rajendra speaking on the occasion brought to the fore some of the key issues faced by ship and operators on the topic of “Expectation, a point of view from the user including port and ship operators.”
He noted that while larger ships want to spend less time at the port there is a need for more gantry cranes.
In addition, it is important to ensure there is a reduction in road blocks within the port as well. This was addressed by Dr. Wickrama who noted that these issues were being currently worked out in a bid to ease the congestion at the port. Capt. Rajendra spoke of the growing need for the establishment of the Colombo South Harbour that is currently being established for which construction work is likely to commence by the end of the year. It was pointed out that with larger vessels calling at the Colombo port in their numbers must be facilitated for which the required infrastructure needed to be in place.
He also pointed out that in automation of gate operations the truck gate capacity has to be designed for peak not average activity while rail activity has to be more evenly spread.
In a bid to become connected globally faster, the SLPA as part of its Ecommerce and Online payment facility is currently conducting discussions with the Bank of Ceylon.
This will provide for an online payment gateway for the awarding of a contract for which the basic infrastructure is being worked out presently. Installation and training is expected to commence in May. Dr. Wickrama believes that this would bring on much pressure from workers against such a move, however, the government will continue with this project irrespective of these concerns.