This is your berth!
By Cassandra Mascarenhas
The massive developments in Sri Lanka’s ports sector came under the spotlight and in for praise yesterday at a regional industry forum in Colombo.
“The Port of Colombo is growing and it is encouraging for us to have it as a member port where there is such remarkable growth taking place,” Japan’s Kochi Prefectural Government’s Governor Masanao Ozaki told the 13th meeting and conference of the International Network of Affiliated Ports, a grouping involving six sister ports in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Korea and Sri Lanka.
INAP was founded by Port of Kochi in Japan and Colombo Port in Sri Lanka in 1998 as a brainchild of the then Governor of Kochi Prefecture D. Hashimoto and the late Minister of Ports and Shipping M.H.M Ashroff.
Ozaki said it was uplifting to witness Sri Lanka, one of the founding members of INAP, enter a record high in terms of economic growth as the end of the civil war was followed by the expansion of public investment and restoration of exports.
Focusing on global developments, he said the most important thing for INAP was to deepen understanding between various entities for mutual growth. In this sense, the activities of INAP have a significant impact when promoting cultural exchanges within the region for mutual development and this symposium in turn is a place of exchanging opinions between participants.
He added that during this short stay, the delegates hoped to encourage the deepening of economic exchange activities with Sri Lanka through the active exchange of opinions between participants based on this year’s theme and that would in turn serve as a renewed trigger for development for each member port.
The 2011 conference, the third to be hosted by Colombo, focused on mutual cooperation as a means of bridging the differences between global regions.
While delivering the welcome address at the inauguration of the event, INAP Chairman and SLPA Chairman Dr. Priyath B. Wickrama detailed the next step for INAP, explaining that in the face of several global challenges, including the economic downturn and various natural disasters, governments had placed a confidence in ports and harbours which could not be seen in the past in order to take steps to bring normalcy to affected regions by boosting national trade.
“This situation directs me to what I hope to focus on during my term as INAP Chairman. I want to raise global awareness of INAP and over the next year, it is my fervent mission to ensure that the voice of INAP is heard the world over. We must promote all the meaningful work we undertake so that more ports will join our network,” he added.
The SLPA Chief also highlighted some of the ongoing developments in Sri Lanka’s ports sector such as the Hambantota Port, the expansion of the Colombo Port and development of a new port in Oluvil.
The Chief Guest at the event, Deputy Minister of Ports and Highways Rohitha Abeygunewardana, addressed the assembled crowd next, describing the steps taken to develop all ports in Sri Lanka as port development had become a national priority.
“The Hambantota Port project, the foremost mega development project that the SLPA has undertaken, has marked the successful completion of Phase I. Before long, the Port of Hambantota will be a fully-fledged hub in the region, on a free zone concept,” he said.
“The signing of the BOT agreement for the first terminal at the Colombo South Harbour during the President’s visit to China and the construction of this terminal is one of the largest PPP projects in Sri Lanka.”
The South container terminal, when completed, will provide 18 metre depth to accommodate container megaships and once the construction is completed, it will be able to handle 7.2 million TEUs annually. The Port of Galle is also being developed as a cruise destination, with a view to reap the massive economic benefits of the booming tourism industry in Sri Lanka, he continued.
“Sri Lanka is now on a clear path in making itself the ‘Miracle of Asia’ after a 30-year war that devastated our economy. Along with ports, our country is on a mega development drive, with many other highly capital-intensive development initiatives,” Abeygunewardana added. “I believe that this conference would certainly provide INAP members with a proper forum to exchange views concerning port-related development.”
“This year’s theme highlights mutual cooperation as a means of bridging the differences between global regions, which in this case is between the region of Asia as represented by China, Japan, Korea and Sri Lanka and from South-East Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia. While the world is made up of many other regions, INAP will continue to aim to expand its membership to become an intraregional network of sister-ports and altogether open itself up to exchanging and sharing information on marine transport and port affairs,” said the Department Manager of Engineering Services Department, Cebu Ports Authority Mario G. Tan, on behalf of the Immediate Past INAP Chairman.