The following is a statement based on remarks made by Dr. Prasantha Jayamanna, Vice Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority at the press conference held yesterday in Colombo to clarify the incident surrounding the fire on X-Press Pearl, a container ship during her anchorage at the Colombo Port.
The Port of Colombo is a port that mainly focuses on transhipment operations. In addition to the goods used in Sri Lanka, in these transshipment operations, the port of Colombo handles a large number of containers required by other ports in other parts of the world.
As a port that handles nearly 8 million containers a year, our highly skilled staff handles all of these loading and unloading containers according to the classification, both usual cargoes and cargoes that is declared as being dangerous.
There are 9 levels of dangerous cargoes. All these goods from explosives to gases and chemical were classified. The handling of dangerous cargoes are not new. Through this port, we get all the oil that Sri Lanka needs, the gas, chemicals, rubber, and other materials relating to other industries. Similarly, because we are a major transshipment hub, various chemicals going to many other countries in Asia pass through us. This is the reality. We have to accept that. We cannot ask shippers to not bring such cargo here. This is the nature of shipping industry. Any port that stays in this industry has to handle such containers. Similarly, these ships run on oil, electricity and manpower. They may have some technical issues. We have good protocols and experience to minimize these. Yet no one can completely prevent this from happening.
According to data released by the European Union, thousands of ships have had various difficulties on their voyages in the European region. A total of 22 ships have caught fire. In East Sea ( sea around Japan), dozens of ships have caught fire and sunk in recent past. This is the reality of this industry.
We are taking action to prevent them by a competent board of officers, engineers, chemists, and those experts in the port and shipping industry. We need to acknowledge that the Port of Colombo is in a prestigious position because of its highly efficient staff and protocols.