SL seen as losing billions of dollars as a result of not making use of her locational advantage
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
‘Sri Lanka is located at the heart of a vital global shipping line and more than 45000 ships and an equal number of aircraft navigate this route via Sri Lanka’s Dondra head annually. However, not a single ship nor aircraft is enabled to make a stop-over at Dondra for bunkering, re-fueling and other operational services which could bring in billions of dollars for the country. Thus, we could be seen as sitting on a gold mine, former chairman, Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ranjith Wickramasinghe said.
Wickremasinghe made these observations at a zoom forum organized by the Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka (CMA) on the subject, “Solution to the Debt Crisis Using Nature”, last week.
Extracts from Wickremasinghe’s presentation: ‘Sri Lanka is now grappling with a huge debt trap running into about US $ 60 billion. Because of that the entire country is now suffering. In 2018 our national debt amounted to US $ 18 billion and now it has gone up to US $ 60 billion. But over the last decade our economy grew by 40 per cent until the debt balloon burst.
‘When we study the factual situation we find that every six minutes some ship of aircraft passes our southern region and we don’t get a single dollar, especially because ships arriving from East, South and West through the Suez canal by pass Dondra and call over at Singaporean ports.
“Sri Lanka enjoys a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone but foreign ships merely navigate through this route without paying anything to Sri Lanka, causing severe damage to nature, which damage has not been quantified by Sri Lanka.
‘Thirty per cent of world trade takes place along this route. Sometimes huge ships that carry more than 25000 containers consisting of retail goods that go from the USA to China and vice versa traverse this route. These two countries together contribute more than 60 per cent to world trade.
‘Most of these ships coming from the Suez canal cut through Dondra and reach Singapore without going round, which reduces traveling by 400 nautical miles or by one day, saving 200 tons of fuel. Average cost of a one ton of fuel is US $ 100, which amounts to about US $ nine billion. If Sri Lanka functioned as a bunkering point/ fueling point we could earn more than US $ nine billion per year by serving 45000 plus ships. Apart from that if Sri Lanka offers other operational services to those ships, we could earn another US$ 12 billion.
‘Sri Lanka must support the United Nations, World Bank and other quarters to salvage it from the US $ 60 billion debt trap. Our debt to GDP is not sustainable. We should avail of a debt waiver for two years until our trade balance becomes stable. We should then go in for bridge financing for another two years and after five years we could become rather stable.’