Port ready to meet global changes in container transportation

by Franklin R. Satyapalan
SLMC leader and Minister of Shipping, Ports Development, Eastern Development and Muslim Religious Affairs Rauff Hakeem said on Monday that the 24th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority gave him the opportunity to commission the Unity Container Terminal upon completion of the civil engineering works because it was envisioned by his late leader M. H. M. Ashraff, Minister of Ports.

"Global changes in the field of container transportation and shipping are imposing heavy burdens on ports to enhance capacity, expand facilities and improve services," Hakeem noted.

Earlier minister Hakeem flanked off a bicycle race from Colombo to Matara, participated in blood donation campaign opened of a fitness centre and handed over of a television set to stevedores at the Bandaranaike quay, handed over keys to the new quarters at Blomendhal housing scheme to SLPA employees, opened of a maritime museum inaugurated a Customer Service Centre (LCL and Brenk Bulk Cargo) laid a foundation stone for two new housing schemes at Kew Road, opened buffet system meal for employees at the Jaya container terminal, all these to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the SLPA.

Also present were Japanese ambassador Otsuka, Chairman SLPA Parakrama Dissanayake, Vice Chairman M. H. M. Salman, Working Director Manilal Silva, Security Director captain M. Bagoos, Harbour Master Captain Nihal Keppettipola and other senior officials of the SLPA.

`95 The Unity Container Terminal serves will provide capacity for self sustaining container carriers immediately, followed by further enhancement of capacity with the provision of container cranes, transfer cranes and prime movers and trailers within the next 9 to 10 months.

`95 Increasing capacity within the Port of Colombo needs emphasis, as it is necessary to build traffic and win customer confidence, while awaiting outer harbour development activities to provide deep draught capability.

`95 Enhancing capacity further by improving the facilities at JCT and by opening up more yard space for stacking containers is now under study for early realization.

`95 Characteristics of international container traffic and transshipment activities preclude development of container hub ports in proximity to each other. Taking note of such realities every effort is being made to develop the ports of Galle, Trincomalee, Kankesanturai, Point Pedro, Oluvil and Habantota as regional ports with emphasis on fostering industrial activity where possible.

`95 Kankesanturai and Point Pedro will be rehabilitated and expanded as a matter of urgency with the progress of the peace initiative. Establishing a regional Port at Oluvil has been undertaken with assistance from the Government of Denmark for which tenders have now been called.

`95 The feasibility of establishing port facilities in Hambantota is being studied with assistance from the Government of Canada and a bankable feasibility study is expected in September this year. The ideal proposition for Hambantota appears to be a very large futuristic port with dimensions to meet further than the foreseeable future. Such a development will provide Sri Lanka with an insurance for the next generations, by being abreast of shipping requirements when existing ports become obsolete and unable to economically adopt to changing needs of global shipping. Thus an ad-hoc development in Hambantota could be regretted in the long term future, and as such the bankable feasibility study due in September is anxiously awaited.

`95 With these developments it is anticipated that the Port of Colombo could handle in excess of 4 million TEU per annum while awaiting outer harbour development work to further enhance container traffic through Colombo.

`95 I take this opportunity to thank the Government of Japan for the financial assistance provided for the realization of the Unity Container Terminal. Assistance from the people of Japan helped to establish the JCT and to transform the Port of Colombo from insignificance to a world recognized port that has also contributed in no small measure to the economy of the country. The frequent ship schedules resulting from these developments, and its impact on attracting investors and the snow balling effect on the economy is sometimes not adequately highlighted.

`95 Global changes in the field of Container Transportation and of shipping, are bringing heavy burdens on ports to enhance capacity, expand facilities and improve services.

`95 Ports form gateways to countries. Being an island country, the port sector plays an important role in the economy of the country. Industrial activity in the vicinity of ports is a gateway to enhance job opportunities and economic prosperity for the nation as a whole. However, these developments must be carefully planned taking into account all natural phenomena, global shipping trends and economic realities, to ensure success.

`95 I take this opportunity to thank the Government of Japan for continued support extended towards the development of the port sector in Sri Lanka. I also thank the Chairman and the staff of the SLPA for extending their best effort towards improving the Port of Colombo and the regional ports of Sri Lanka.