Development projects required to increase the capacity of the Port of Colombo by 100% are being implemented expeditiously
A simplistic way to understand the vitality of the Port is to recognize that, “a port is a place where one can either build or destroy a nation,” Dr Prasantha Jayamanna, Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) told in an interview with a Colombo based weekly newspaper. The following is an excerpt from the interview.
“When the present President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Defence Secretary, he knew those underworld members had entered the port auctions. But he took the firmed actions to stop them completely. But over time, as we get more and more complaints, we find that some groups are getting involved again,” Dr Jayamanna observed.
However, “I am in a position to do our part to face a situation like this. I will not allow such drudgeries while I am here. I will not hesitate to stand against them at any cost,” he reaffirmed.
“I’m here today at a time when the whole country is asking for a system change. A change must be made. Most port workers who are dedicated to the port and the country should not have a complete bad name because of the small group of people,” he added.
Talking about the series of initiatives taken to curb irregularities in port services and operations, Dr Jayamanna says, “No one has to pay even a cent illegally to clear a cargo out of the port. It is sufficient to follow the proper procedure. The port is staffed by well-paid employees. Their salaries are enough to live a respectable life.”
Initiatives for Clean and Neat Port
“We have now made public the WhatsApp number 0716413332 to record any situation where a port employee is involved in bribery or corruption. Anyone can record and present relevant events through it. If such a complaint is received, necessary action will be taken against the relevant officer immediately,” he said.
According to a recent report by World Bank, the Port of Colombo is the most efficient port in South Asia. Recalling his experiences with port operations during the pandemic, Dr Jayamanna says, “We did not close the port for a single day during the Covid-19 plague. Even when the whole country was terrified of the Pandemic, the port workers came and worked without fear.”
As the result, “We have enhanced the confidence in shipping lines. It is in this context that we were able to handle 7.25 million TUEs in 2021, the largest throughput in the history of the Port of Colombo”, he said.
Concluding the interview, Dr Jayamanna has revealed the primary objective of his tenure as the Chairman of SLPA stating, “My goal is to increase port revenue to US $ 1 billion per annum. The current short-term goal to achieve this long-term goal is to strengthen the Eastern Terminal with full equipment by 2024. Simultaneously, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zones Ltd. (APSEZ), John Keells Holdings PLC and the SLPA are also working on the Colombo West International Terminal (CWIT). If we are able to complete this on time, the capacity of the Colombo Port will increase by 100 per cent.”