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Sri Lanka’s Colombo port targets 7mn boxes in 2018 with joint marketing: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port expect to handle 7.0 million containers in 2018, up 12.9 percent from the 6.2 million twenty foot equivalent units handled in 2017 with joint marketing by three terminals, ports minister Mahinda Samarasinghe has said.

The Jaya Container Terminal of the state-run Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), South Asia Gateway Terminal of the publicly traded John Keells Holdings and Colombo International Container Terminal of China’s CM Port group has inked a deal to jointly promote the port.

"Although the three terminals compete separately and individually, now they can work on a collaborative mission to operate vessels calling at the Port of Colombo," the Minister Samarasinghe was quoted as saying in an SLPA statement.

He said Colombo was targeting 7.0 million TEUS in 2018 with joint promotions. In 2017 Colombo’s container volumes including transhipment and domestic grew 8.3 percent to reach 6.2 million TEUs.

SLPA Chairman Parakrama Dissanayake said volumes grew 16.4 percent in January 2018, with transhipment up 20.4 percent.

In February growth was 19.9 percent and transhipment was 20.4 percent. Dissanayake said volumes at SLPA’ Jaya terminal grew 24.8 percent in January and 25.2 percent in February.

Under the collaboration deal waiting time for all container vessels arriving at the port will be minimized by allowing vessel to be accommodated at the earliest available terminal in addition to collaborative promotion of the port.

"On the Asia to Europe sector there are 17 loops of which only 03 are calling Colombo," Dissanayake said.

"Therefore, obviously, we have got challenges to ensure that collectively we should attract more loops into the Port of Colombo.

"This means, we have to go beyond the partisan approach of promoting our terminals to protect the Port of Colombo.





"We will compete with each other but will also co-operate with each other, moving between competition and co-operation."

Sri Lanka’s port volumes have been driven up with the opening of the Chinese CICT, terminal which can handle large container ships. Colombo’s performance is also closely tied to Indian external trade trends.

Minister Samarasinghe said Sri Lanka hopes to complete the partially built East Terminals.

Sri Lanka’s current administration has failed to proceed with a joint development of the terminal with a major shipping line, several of which placed bids in response to an international tender.

Economic analysts say it is one of the glaring failures of the current administration and a so-called ‘low hanging fruit’ to strengthen Sri Lanka’s position as a shipping hub.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has also proposed to liberalize the shipping agency business which could draw shipping companies to set up regional offices in the island, but the proposal is opposed by an agency oligopoly and some political interests.

(Correction: Headline corrected to say target is for 2018, not 2017 as originnally stated.)

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