SLPA: Operational Strategies during Covid19

Successful health measures implemented by SLPA has promoted safety at work and continuity of smooth operations during Covid-19

by Harsha Udayakantha Peiris

Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), under the purview of Hon. Minister of Ports and Shipping Johnston Fernando and with the instructions of the Chairman of SLPA, General Daya Ratnayake, has immediately taken a number of measures with the assistance of health authorities’ guidance and instructions to prevent and control the spread of the Covid-19 inside the Port of Colombo and all commercial ports in Sri Lanka.  These fruitful steps taken immediately following the announcement of the health crisis in Sri Lanka have resulted in reporting of no Covid-19 infections so far inside the port premises. These measures have further enabled continuation of smooth operations of all essential port services in and outside the port without any hindrance, to fulfill the national requirement at this very moment.

Sooner the outbreak was officially notified by health and other authorities, all operations and services of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and the Port of Colombo were recognized as essential services.  Accordingly, services and operations of the Jaya Container Terminal (JCT), South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT), Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) and services of Colombo Logistics were announced essential services.

Essential services

Accordingly, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), as a responsible public institution has taken all preventive measures against the health situation. At a time, the WHO has announced Covid-19; pandemic the health crisis has also brought a new global challenge to face with, including our country and its institutions. SLPA also has to share this situation of challenge   with no difference.

In February this year, with the health authorities’ awareness acknowledgements of the development of Covid-19 in the island, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) commenced an immediate systematic campaign to control the spread of the virus in the port premises. 

The Management of SLPA, following these instructions, guided all relevant parties to follow due preventive measures that should be utilized in order to prevent any hazardous health situation and also against any unpleasant health situation that could arise accordingly.  On March 10th, at the Mahapola Port and Maritime Training Academy of SLPA, an awareness program on Covid-19 was held to educate all sectors of employees in the institution.

On March 13, 2020, the Management Meeting held at the institution solely aimed at promoting the need to control Covid-19 at the port premises. To expedite the implementation of Covid-19  preventive measures,  a special  preventive committee was also appointed with the initiative of the Vice Chairman of SLPA and presided  by the  Additional Managing Director of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Mr. Upali De Zoysa. 

The committee provides necessary guidelines and instructions by public health authorities to be implemented in the institution. All Heads of Divisions are informed through the committee,   on required preventive measures to be taken at each Division of the institution. With such implementations, immediate arrangements were made   to purchase necessary preventive health related Hygiene solutions, protective gears and other   equipment for the safety of all levels of port employees and port users inside the port.

Covid-19 Prevention Operations Center

SLPA’s Covid-19 Prevention Operations Center acting under the preventive committee was established in SLPA Secretariat. The operational center collects and reports information on all Covid-19 issues in the port premises to the   top management as required coordinates matters pertaining to handling of vessels during outbreak coordinates corporate needs and issues pertaining to port charges and other service issues.

These implementations were also accompanied by the establishment of a “Disinfection Unit” at the Security Division of SLPA. Covid-19 prevention activities are conducted collaboratively with the Covid-19 Prevention Unit of the Sri Lanka Navy at the port premises.  Simultaneously, the Medical Division of SLPA is also implementing necessary measures to regulate Covid-19 preventive operations in accordance with the Government’s health recommendations to ensure safety of employees.

Meanwhile, an essential special  rotation of   workforce arrangement has also been implemented by the management of SLPA to limit the presence of employee gathering at work, thereby, calling only for the most essential segments of employees and staffs on a shift basis during and after normal working hours. Under these implementations, it is compulsory for every employee who reports to such service during the period, to report to work on the recommendation of the Divisional Head. Essential employees and officers have also been provided with facilities to carry out their duties online from home as per Government Circulars.

Instructions have been issued for employees reporting to work to fulfill health check-ups at the institution’s Medical Division prior to reporting at their workplaces. Special daily transport services have also been arranged for long and short distance employees reporting to duties at the Port of Colombo. These steps and measures have helped increase health safety of all employees at the institution and the continuity of smooth operations at the Port of Colombo.

Further, the provision of meals and food, fuel concessions and the purchase of goods on concessionary terms and on the basis of consumer convenience, and pharmaceutical facilitation for employees who have long-term medicinal requirements have also been  successfully fulfilled by the authority as effective welfare measures during the outbreak. The management has taken decisions not to deduct loan installments from employee salary, for the months of April and May this year. The concession has been offered for the ten month loan, transportation loan, multi-purpose loan, and distress loan obtained by employees from the institution. The co-operative financial institutions in SLPA have also taken steps not to redeem loan installments during the period from employees who obtained various loan facilities from them.

SLPA’s Guideline for Eradicating Covid-19

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Ports Authority’s Guideline for Eradicating Covid-19 was launched on May 14, at the Mahapola Ports and Maritime Academy (MPMA) to maintain the safety of all those efficiently and effectively  involved in the port’s operations. Following the guideline, the institution’s foremost objective is   to ensure the safety of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and all those involved in the operations of the ports. A series of special video production has also been released by the Communication and Public Relations division of SLPA   in social media and the institutional websites to motivate and encourage employees, with a safety message for their loved ones at home and to acknowledge the public.

Concessions for consignees

During the Covid-19 period, certain concessions have also been offered for consignees. Due to prevailing Covid-19 outbreak in the island, institutions and their staffs related to operating import and export consignments have faced numerous difficulties.  All terminals and warehouses in Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), SAGT and CICT have also reached their maximum capacities, creating several   obstacles for the continuity of port operations, and obtaining required space for positioning of containers and port cargo at terminals and warehouses in the port. Hon. Minister of Ports and Shipping Johnston Fernando with special attention into the matter further re-extended instructions issued earlier from 16th March 2020 to 13th April 2020 with regard to ‘occupational charges’. Accordingly, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, SAGT and CICT were instructed to offer   related concessions from 14th April 2020 to 07th May 2020  to all consignees.

During this period, only basic occupational charges were charged at terminals for all imported local TEUs.  Penal charges for the said period were fully waved off. The terminals of JCT and UCT of Sri Lanka Ports Authority, terminals of the SAGT and CICT acted accordingly. The concession period is now over following its deadline.

During the Covid-19 period, certain concessions have also been offered for consignees.

The institution, up to now has received a highly commendable helping hand for its Covid-19 preventive programme from all parties including the port health services, Sri Lanka Navy, employees of SLPA and all other stakeholders.

At a recent meeting held in SLPA, the Chairman of SLPA, General Daya Ratnayake thanked all levels of employees and staff members of the institution for their dedicated efforts to maintain all operations of the port without hindrance at the very moment.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), as the pioneering port operator in South Asia who continued to operate around the clock during this global health issue right now, is implementing every preventive measure in the institution even beyond and higher than the expected level against the prevailing health situation to help fight Covid – 19 in Sri Lanka.

The writer, Manager (Communication & Public Relations), Communication and Public Relations Division, Sri Lanka Ports Authority

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