Steps underway to make Colombo a smart port – SLPA

Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Chairman Gen. Daya Ratnayake last week said steps were underway to make Colombo a smart port.

The way forward as well as on-going and planned measures were shared by the SLPA Chief during his address at the Sri Lanka Logistics and Freight Forwarders Association (SLFFA) Annual General Meeting. 

“We are very serious about bringing to reality the idea of a smart port. We have concentrated on creating a competitive edge by deploying innovative e-initiative and strategic IT systems to improve productivity and provide uninterrupted services to port users,” said Gen. Ratnayake who was the Chief Guest at the AGM.

He said currently SLPA is in the process of implementing the Single Window concept which would allow parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents easily, and thereby efficiently comply with all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements.

“We have also taken steps to create a platform for knowledge sharing among different port users. Although there is some resistance to change, we expect that training and education with respect to the use of digitalisation options would eventually be accepted as the way to move forward,” he said. 

The major projects include a Container Terminal Management System (CTMS), a Finance, Inventory and Procurement System (Oracle e-Business suite), and an Electronic Port Permit System (EPPS). Some of these are currently in operation while others are being strengthened with upgraded versions,” the SLPA Chief said. 

“Our objective is simple. We want to create guidelines and standards for efficient, secure, reliable and seamless electronic information exchange among maritime stakeholders using available communication systems. I am confident that the SLFFA will reap the benefits,” Gen. Ratnayake told the AGM.

He said as Sri Lanka strives to make its way into the top ranks of global sea ports in terms of volume and growth, it was refreshing and heartening to see public bodies and private companies collaborating in order to bring international best practices to the industry.

“Of course, much work has to be put in for Sri Lanka to become a global hub for cargo handling. But with the recent changes in policy, and through the collaboration of experts from both public and private sector bodies like SLFFA working on the existing issues together, there is a boundless potential for Sri Lanka to be a maritime hub in the region,” the SLPA Chief emphasised. 

He said that 90% of world trade involves oceanic transportation and therefore the industry is a key factor in the economic growth of many countries. 

“Of course the COVID-19 pandemic has put a dampener on all activity, but it is safe to say that international trade will increase over the long run, and therefore your role in meeting the demand for shipping is likely to become even more crucial in the coming years,” he added.

It was pointed out that digitalisation will generate multiple and accessible information feeds that can enable all actors to have a shared and common situation, and execute better on-the-spot coordination. 

 “The COVID-19 situation, as we all know, has made all this imperative, and I see this as a positive outcome of the pandemic,” he added.

The SLPA Chief also said a regulator’s tasks are unenviable. Regulation has had a bad name, he added. “On the other hand, streamlining operations, greater efficiency and plugging possible holes, make it imperative to have a robust regime of approval and authorisation. Digitalisation will clearly cure much of the headaches for all the stakeholders, keeping the need for time-consuming and frustrating physical presence to a minimum,” Gen. Ratnayake added.

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