“Colombo port is mainly a transhipment hub with 80% of throughput coming from transhipment,” Wickramasinghe told delegates at the TOC Asia conference held as part of the Singapore Maritime Week 2016.
“In 2013-14, Colombo port’s throughput grew by 15%. In 2014-15 volumes were up by 6% and this year we expect a 10% increase,” he said. In 2015, the port moved around 5.1m teu.
The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) is currently looking to grow its container handling volumes by developing the East Terminal, which is scheduled to come on stream by April 2017.
According to Asian Development Bank, which supported the port upgrade project with a $300m loan, made a bold projection that Colombo port will handle 10m teu by 2020.
While box throughput is on the rise, Wickramasinghe raised concerns over the increasing size of containerships, going as big as 18,000 teu that would put pressure on port infrastructure in catering to these mega-ships.
“From the terminal operator perspective, there is a huge impact from these mega-ships. Every shipping line wants the same weekly berthing window during the week, and that is the biggest worry on our part,” he said.
The deepwater port of Colombo has allowed it to accommodate 18,000-teu containerships, contributing to its climbing throughput but at the same time giving rise to issues of adequately allocating berthing slots.