ECONOMYNEXT – With Dubai’s global humanitarian aid centre nearing capacity, southern Sri Lanka’s disused air and seaports could be a potential deployment hub for relief in Indian Ocean region disasters, offering business opportunities for logistics firms, an expert says.
The island has the logistics infrastructure and expertise and experience derived from war to respond quickly with aid if disaster strikes in the region, according to Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda, an academic and foreign affairs analyst.
The Indian Ocean Region is sometimes called the ‘World’s Hazard Belt’ and Sri Lanka lies at the very centre of this region ideally positioned close to the international sea lane connecting east and west, he said.
“Nearly half of the world’s natural disasters occur in the Indian Ocean Region,” Tammita-Delgoda said. “So what happens here affects nearly half the world.
“Sri Lanka has a wealth of experience and expertise in disaster relief and is well-equipped hotels, insurance services, media and armed forces,” he told an international disaster convention in Colombo.
“Becoming a hub for disaster relief in the Indian Ocean is in our national interest and a strategic need,” Tammita-Delgoda said.
The sea port and airport in southern Hambantota, given their proximity to Indian Ocean region disaster zones, could be an alternative or support location for Dubai’s International Humanitarian City (IHC) which is nearing capacity, Tammita-Delgoda said.
Both projects, done under the ousted Rajapaksa regime, have been branded ‘white elephants’ for not having attracted enough customers.
“In Dubai’s IHC, 85 percent of office space and 95 percent of warehouse space is taken while Hambantota has plenty of space to expand,” Tammita-Delgoda told the forum organised by MDF Asia with UNDP and the Disaster Management Centre.
Dubai’s IHC has nine United Nations agencies, and almost 50 international NGOs and commercial companies, including UPS (United Parcel Service Inc.), a global logistics company.
“The IHC has helped deliver aid to affected areas and is at the centre of the multibillion dollar logistics industry which operates throughout the world,” Tammita-Delgoda said.
“Flying in and out of Hambantota can yield savings in money, time and fuel,” he said. “Sri Lanka also has a cost advantage over Dubai, one of the world’s most expensive places.
“Hambantota could easily be a deployment hub for supplies. It’s a question of trust and investor confidence.”
Investors should be assured of minimum governmental red tape, sophisticated warehousing systems and being able to deploy supplies fast, he said. (Colombo/December 28, 2015)