Ports and Shipping Minister Sagala Ratnayaka yesterday said timely decisions were essential for the sustainable growth of the Colombo Port, and was regretful that delays in finalising the East Container Terminal (ECT) had threatened the competitiveness of the country’s main port.
Delivering the keynote speech at the first German-Sri Lankan Logistics Conference in Colombo, Ratnayaka warned global uncertainty was growing due to trade wars between US and China, Brexit, and fears of a another global recession, which have all impacted maritime industry growth. He pointed out that during the first quarter of 2019, the number of containers shipped across the world only grew by 0.5%, which was a further reduction from 3.6% in 2018, and 6.6% growth in 2017.
Strained global growth coupled with more ports being developed regionally was putting more pressure on Colombo Port, he said.
“Times are changing and we have to keep up,” he said.
“The Port of Colombo has managed to remain afloat under challenging circumstances but where do we grow from here? The Port of Colombo has arrived at a crossroads. I stated in January that growth will dwindle, as crucial decisions had not been made over the past four years to increase the port’s capacity. Therefore we fast-tracked the decision-making process in the East Container Terminal (ECT),” he said.
He reiterated that the ECT will ensure the Colombo Port will not lose deep-draft ships to competition and continue to ensure profitability in a sustained manner.
“But the expansion must continue with timely decisions. We must continue to make the right strategic decisions at the right time, and continue with our efforts to complete the development of the ECT as fast as possible. It is of vital importance that we make the right strategic decisions at this point, to ensure that the industry sustains its growth in the years to come,” he added.
Minister Ratnayaka said he had worked to fast-track the decision-taking procedure of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japan and India on the ECT project, which is a timely need.
“When our team was participating in the Transport Logistics Fair held in Munich, Germany in June, Sri Lanka was facing several drawbacks due to the Easter Sunday attacks, which altered the country’s orientation in every sector. Thus in the last few months, we were able to stabilise the country with a fast recovery, while ensuring the safety of citizens and businesses,” Ratnayaka said.
[ Courtesy: Daily FT]