- Confident move will send strong signals to int’l investors
- Points out SL one of few nations to have rigid ownership structures
- Stresses need for local ports to reinvest to face competition from Indian ports
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Sri Lanka needs to gather momentum in its endeavour to liberalise the country’s shipping & freight forwarding industry, reiterated the largest global container shipping line, Maersk yesterday, and said it is imperative the move be made as soon as possible so that ‘strong’ signals could be sent to potential international investors with regard to the island nation’s development aspirations.
“When you look at Sri Lanka and around it, there are so many reforms that have happened across the world. Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that have not liberalised the sector as of yet. We would like to see that process brought to a conclusion,” said Maersk Line Managing Director, South Asia, Steve Felder.
Speaking to reporters in Colombo, he asserted that Maersk is supportive of the liberalisation move and firmly believes in free markets.
Felder pointed out that the additional benefit stemming from ensuring the industry is liberalised is that it will send strong signals to investors that Sri Lanka is open for business and that it is a place where it is easy to do business.
He said it is “interesting” to see the island nation still having an ownership structure that is strongly regulated and one that is against free market.
“It is certainly a win-win situation as we see if it (liberalisation) happens. It has not been implemented as yet and we would like to see efforts to speed it up. We think that doing so would open up opportunities for the industry and that it will be a good sign and a positive signal from the government,” added Felder.
In the 2018 budget, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, proposed to open up the shipping & freight forwarding sector to foreign investments and introduce an independent port regulator. However, since the announcement, little progress has been witnessed in that direction.
Maersk has gone on record previously stating that liberalisation of shipping agencies will reduce transaction costs for carriers using Colombo as a transshipment hub, thereby making it attractive for shipping lines to further increase volumes, especially given the growth of new transshipment hubs in this region.
Furthermore, with the development of the Indian ports under the Indian government’s Sagarmala project, Felder opined that for Sri Lanka to remain relevant its ports must reinvent and challenge themselves to become competitive and productive.
Maersk Line, the global containerized division of the Maersk Group, has a fleet of over 500 vessels along with 1.9 million containers with a global reach.