Indian Premier Manmohan Singh will commission India’s newest container port, Vallapadam at Kochi, Kerala tomorrow, it was revealed at a port and shipping seminar in Colombo on Thursday.
Vallapadam (built by DP World Dubai) is one of several bids by the Indians to “steal” Sri Lanka’s Indian transshipment cargo from Colombo. Indian transshipment cargo comprises 85% of Colombo’s total transshipment volumes.
Another container terminal that India is developing is Visinjam. In 2007 India committed a sum of US$ 124 billion to develop its ports.
However issues such as strong trade unionism, problems of meeting the required draft levels dur to silting and high shipping costs in India, all work in favour of Colombo, which today has an over-capacity problem, even turning away new lines wanting to call here because of the inability of supply to meet demand.
This is allegedly true to both SAGT and the Government controlled JCT.
The new Colombo south port terminal, the building of which is yet to begin, is however expected to be on stream in 2013. India’s double digit export growth (17-18%) is an assurance to Colombo that it will retain its hub status despite the growth of other ports in the vicinity.
However Sri Lanka attracts only 18% of India’s transshipment traffic, whereas in the case of Singapore it’s 37%. It’s the efficiency, productivity and Singapore’s competitiveness that Sri Lanka finds difficult to match.
It was also pointed out that because of Government’s high taxation on bunkering, costs here were much more expensive, 50% more than that of Singapore’s. Liberalisation of the bunkering industry (a virtual Ceylon Petroleum Corporation monopoly) and encouraging more players were suggested as means of making Colombo a bunkering hub.
The seminar was organized by Path Finder Organisation with the speakers being Ceyline Group of Companies Managing Director Jayantha Rathnayake, Ceylon Association of Ships’ Agents Chairman Nimal Ranchigoda, Colombo International Nautical & Engineering College Management Faculty Dean Prof. J.A. Karunaratne and Colombo Dockyard PLC Ship Repairs Marketing Head Darshana Chandrasekera.
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