COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s government is revamping management of its ports, aiming to make them profitable, the new head of the ports authority said.
"We’re having to look at every port in Sri Lanka," declared Lakdas Panagoda, chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). "Our problems are huge. We have political, technical and financial issues."
Lakdas said the government wants to exploit the island’s strategic location on the main East-West trade route across the Indian Ocean to make it a maritime hub in the region.
But the hugely overstaffed SLPA-run ports and terminals have been making losses for years.
"Our aim is to make all ports profitable and improve revenue," Panagoda told a forum on the Customs new round-the-clock operation.
The island’s port infrastructure has expanded rapidly in recent years with two new ports being built, Colombo South Harbour next to the existing port and Hambantota on the south coast.
A Chinese-built and run container terminal in the South Harbour was growing fast two years after being commissioned, Panagoda said.
Hambantota has a fast-growing vehicle transhipment business which was being improved but faced other problems, Panagoda said.
Hambantota, built with Chinese loans, has been called a ‘white elephant’ by the ruling party when in opposition, as ship calls have been inadequate several years after opening, raising doubts about how the debt will be repaid.
"We’re reorganising everything at Hambantota," Panagoda said in response to a question whether the south coast port could operate round-the-clock. "There are many issues there. Everything from now on will be properly planned."