Colombo conference on ‘Sri Lanka Ports Trade and Logistics’, an unqualified success

- www.ft.lk

The conference on ‘Sri Lanka Ports Trade and Logistics’ concluded recently at Hilton Hotel Sri Lanka, revolved around the need to market Sri Lankan ports globally with a view to achieving a better synergy between maritime and logistics operations in Sri Lanka, with its geo-strategic location along the main International Shipping Lane. This apart strategic investments from growing economies such as India and China, are propelling Sri Lanka into becoming an important emerging Indian-ocean economy.

Geographically and geo-politically, Sri Lanka is ideally-located between these two fast growing economies. The huge investment by the Chinese government on the Port of Hambantota alone will materialise the biggest inland port constructed in the 21st century. Therefore, the importance of Sri Lanka becoming a strategic hub is clearly manifested. The conference was organised by a leading Dubai-based company Seatrade, whose forte is consolidating global maritime communication. The conference deliberations also explored the investment opportunities coupled with the development of Sri Lanka as the South Asia’s maritime hub and logistics centre. The event was hosted by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).
The conference was graced by Minister of Transport Kumara Welgama. In his inaugural address Minister Welgama said that although Sri Lanka was one of the pioneering Asian economies to remove barriers to global trade, investment and finance, in order to become a vibrant global partner in economic development, it could not exploit its full potential owing to the brutal terrorism that crippled its social fabric and the economic progress. Minister Welgama said, “Since November, 2005, Sri Lanka under the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa embarked on a “humanitarian operation” and succeeded in wiping out terrorism which was prevalent for about three decades and laid the foundation for the rapid economic development of the country within the global framework. Today seven years after President Rajapaksa assuming office Sri Lanka enjoys a relatively sophisticated all island infrastructure network.”
Efficient and integrated communication system – a desideratum
Whilst welcoming the invitees and the participants at the conference in his keynote address SLPA Chairman Dr. Priyath B. Wickrama said that a proper synergy among telecommunications, financial services, trade, transportations and port services is essential for Sri Lanka to become a world class maritime hub.
He further stated that in order to achieve the vision of President Rajapaksa to develop Sri Lanka as a maritime hub, steps are being taken to develop five sea ports around the island. “Colombo Port Expansion Project has been launched to increase container trans-shipment capabilities in Colombo Port. With the completion of three terminals it is expected to increase the capacity of Colombo port up to 13 Million TEUs to cater to the rapidly increasing demand of services in the international shipping industry.  Out of three terminals one will be operated by SLPA while the second terminal will be operated by China Merchant Group,” said Dr. Wickrama.
Furthering supply chain management
Making a presentation titled ‘Furthering Supply Chain management – Free zone Development and Logistics in Sri Lanka’, SLPA Managing Director Capt. Keppetipola comprehensively dealt with ‘Current World Economic Scenario and its Impact on the Supply Chain Trends’, ‘Impact of the EU Debt Crisis on World Economy and the Logistics Sector’, ‘Concept of Free Trade Zone in Supply Chain Strategy and Its Successful Principles’, ‘Current Supply Chain Management aspects in Sri Lankan Market’, ‘Streamlining Supply Chain Process in Sri Lanka’, ‘Benefits of Free Trade Zone in Business and Economic Perspectives’, ‘Investor Attraction to Free Trade Zones in Sri Lanka’ and ‘Aftercare Strategies’. Capt. Keppetipola laid special emphasis on the need to transform ports from mere interface between maritime transport and land transport into hub of seamless logistics chain and logistics value-creator or value adder. “Our order winning criteria are composed of strong resilient economy, educated and flexible work force, higher connectivity, easy access to key overseas markets, fast developing infrastructure, vibrant business environment, investment protection and avoidance of double taxation – almost everything to make Sri Lanka the investor’s destination offering gilt-edged testimony for their investments,” he noted.  
Colombo Dockyard Managing Director and CEO Mangala P. B Yapa outlined the Colombo Dockyard’s experience on luring investors and choosing the right project partners. A market assessment on the Indian Container Port Sector was presented by Drewry Consulting, India Director Shailesh Garg. Bernhard Schulte Ship Management Group Hong Kong Group Director – Supply Chain Management Dr. Ruwanthi De Silva spoke on supply chain management and logistics from a ship management perspective. Several internationally renowned speakers made valuable presentations on maritime security and piracy and the role of Sri Lanka as an emerging maritime hub. SLPA Director Security General Sanath Karunarathne stated that the Sri Lanka Navy, emboldened with their experience in successfully defeating the naval arm of the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit, expressed his optimism that our Navy can contribute effectively to the efforts to eradicate the menace of sea piracy from the Indian ocean. Making a comprehensive presentation on current Trends in automation technology, Stefan Schwiers of Identec Solutions Germany, dealt with various aspects of Terminal Automation utilising technologies such as RFID, RLTS, AGVS and also cited examples of instances of “unmanned” terminals that are currently in vogue.       
Almost every session was ensued by an intellectually stimulating panel discussion, the deliberations of which provided a plethora of positive points to ponder which would undoubtedly lead to the progress of logistics activities in Sri Lanka.
 

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