Sri Lanka airport-port hub enables international ship repair in Covid-19 crisis

HUB OPS: A Gulfstream G200 which ferried in marine engineers at Mattala airport. An Antonov An124 which came in for crew rest and technical services is seen in the background.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is enabling international ship repair, expanding its role as South Asia’s aviation and maritime hub with ports and airports open to cargo, humanitarian, technical and emergency services.

On June 13, a Gulfstream G200 had landed at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) flying in engineers to help repair a vessel that was sheltering in nearby Hambantota Port after running into technical trouble, the state airport operator said.

“Aviation and maritime routes connecting the East and the West and the newly developed Southern Expressway have encouraged the international maritime and aviation industry players to choose the MRIA as a destination to facilitate their operations,” Airport and Aviation Services of Sri Lanka (AASL), the airport operator said in a statement.

Visitors are screened for Coronavirus with PCR test under Sri Lanka’s health and safety guidelines, the agency said.

Sri Lanka’s ports and airports are open for cargo, humanitarian, technical, emergency services as well as crew changes while most ports and airports in the region remain fully or partially closed due to a worsening Coronavirus crises.

On June 12, an Antonov AN124 from Johannesburg South Africa had landed at Mattala airport to provide rest 13 crew members and get technical assistance.

“PCR tests were conducted to all passengers and crew members and AASL had made all the required arrangements for the passenger arrival process in strict accordance with the safety guidelines of the Sri Lanka Health Authorities,” AASL said.

Sri Lanka has contained the Coronavirus epidemic with aggressive contact tracing and quarantine though initial reluctance by health authorities to conduct tests outside hospitals initially made the country lag behind global leaders like Vietnam, allowing clusters to develop.

Sri Lanka has so far confirmed 1885 cases where 921 cases were from a Navy camp cluster and their family members and 560 were foreign returnees, the health ministry said.

Over the past week new infections from a Navy camp had reduced to a trickle and there are intermittent cases from repatriated foreign nationals.

Sri Lanka’s ports and airports are also working together to provide crew changes to global shipping.

“It’s a new area of business because of this COVID-19 situation,” Shehan Sumanasekara Director (Operations) Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) told EconomyNext in a earlier interview.

“If we continue to do that, we suspect it will be a very good revenue for the country and the companies around. So we are very keen on developing that business”.

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