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China container terminal drives Sri Lanka volumes, despite India trade drop

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port has increased throughput over the past two years, with the commissioning of a deep draft terminal operated by a Chinese company, despite a fall in Indian external trade, data shows.

Until 2013, Sri Lanka container traffic, which is mainly dependent on transhipment from India, was closely followed trends in Indian external trade.

When Indian imports and exports expanded, Sri Lanka’s container handling volumes also rose and a dip in Indian exports also caused a fall in Sri Lankan container handling. In 2009 external trade in both Indian and Sri Lanka suffered due to a global economic downturn.

After 2011, Colombo’s existing Sri Lanka Ports Authority and South Asia Gateway Terminals were also operating at near full capacity.

China International Container Terminal (CICT), a unit of China Merchant Ports, opened in late 2013.

In 2014, CICT handled 686,636 containers, the SLPA 2.59 million containers and SAGP 1.66 million containers totalling 4.9 million.

In 2015, there was a steep fall in Indian export trade, but in Colombo’s total volumes did not fall as in earlier years.

Though volumes at SLPA terminals dropped to 2.25 million and SAGT to 1.37 million TEUs and the CICT drew 1.56 million TEUs, taking the total volumes handled in Colombo to 5.18 million in 2015 from 4.907 million a year earlier

Though terminals that lost volumes believed that their traffic had shifted to CICT, or that business had been ‘cannibalized’it is not clear how much of their drop was due to the drop in Indian external trade.





Up to November 2016, Colombo’s volumes had grown to 5.22 million from 5.18 million with CICT handling 1.81 million containers, according to data released by the ministry of ports, despite continued to weakness in Indian trade growth.

SAGT managed to rebuild their volumes from a low of 1.371 million in the full year 2015, to 1.56 million units by November 2016. SLPA terminals had handled 1.935 million containers in the 11 months, compared to 2.25 million in 2015.

CICT said it had handled 2.0 million containers up 28 percent from a year earlier by December and Colombo’s total was estimated to have grown by around 11 percent (or to 5.7mn).

Lloyd’s List said in the first half of 2016, Colombo was among a handful of ports in the world to show double digit growth.

In 2015, Colombo was the 27th busiest port in the world, behind Bremen/Bremerhaven in Germany (5.3 million units) and Tanjung Priok in Indonesia (5.2 million units).  (Colombo/Jan28/2016)

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