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Sri Lankan port's mega hub position 'wishful thinking'

Sri Lankan port's mega hub position 'wishful thinking'

Colombo: While Colombo Port (pictured) for some years has been as a major trans-shipment hub in the Indian Ocean region, its 'mega shipping hub' status the island republic is seeking is still a long way off, local reports indicate. 

Former ports minister, Dilan Perera has claimed Sri Lanka had the advantage of location to be a "mega hub" of the South Asian region. "There is a yawning gap in South Asia which Sri Lanka is well qualified to fill," he said.

"All the major shipping routes are in the south of Sri Lanka, and Colombo and the proposed port in Humbantota is ideally located to take advantage of this traffic," Perera said.
"True, India is also building and modernising ports in its southern tip. But these cannot match the advantage the ports in Sri Lanka have in terms of ocation," he contended. 

But Perera's optimism is contested by Sri Lankan shipping experts who maintain that advantage in terms of location without appropriate infrastructure and economic hinterland to back it up will be of little benefit. Sri Lankan shippers also question the World Bank's 2007 rating of Colombo Port. The Daily Mirror Financial Times recently quoted Rohan Masakorala, former chairman of the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council, as saying that the bank had not consulted the council and the freight forwarding agents' association before giving the poor rating.
Talk of mega status for a Colombo port based only on location was "wishful thinking", said Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) chairman, Saliya Wickramasuriya. He pointed out that Sri Lanka was ranked 92 out of 150 countries in the World Bank's Logistics Performance Index (LPI) for 2007, behind India at 39. Malaysia at 27 and Indonesia ranked 43.
For Sri Lankan ports to improve, logistics and supply chain managements would have to improve, Wickramasuriya said. The need of the hour was government-private partnership, he added. The industry is urging similar public-private partnership as at Colombo Port's South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) to extend to the Humbantota port in the deep south of the island. 

Humbantota, which is being built with Chinese help, is expected to complete the basic works in three years. Deficiencies notwithstanding, Colombo Port is on the upswing, according to Wickramasuriya. It registered a three percent increase in conventional cargo and 10 percent in containerised cargo between 2006 and 2007.
New facilities, including four new vessel berths and more efficient handling systems, were added in the Colombo north port.  [14/02/08]