From left: Board Member K. Jeyabalasingham, Past Chairman Hussain Mohamed, Vice Chairman M.A. Kadir Ishak, Chairman A. Samson C. De Silva, Secretary J.M. Faiz and Board Member Mahinda Bandara
Pic by Waruna Wanniarachchi
By Zahara Zuhair
The Sri Lanka Ship Suppliers’ Association recently urged assistance and to introduce a new mechanism for the industry from the concerned government authorities and institutions considering the amount of foreign exchange brought to the country by them.
It was mentioned at a press conference organised to announce the 40th anniversary celebration of the Sri Lanka Ship Suppliers’ Association, expected to be held on November 13.
“It brings foreign currency to the country, but not many know about this association. For every vessel and even for international routes, we supply goods - not many know this,” said Chairman A. Samson C. De Silva said.
The association, which was established in 1975, currently comprises of 114 members. They offer services to vessels in all ports in the island, mainly supplying food items.
“We provide all the supplies like vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and whatever the ship requires. We get it from local markets, also from foreign,” De Silva said.
The media briefing set a platform to discuss many issues faced by them. They also suggested some recommendations for the government which included a reduction in duties and taxes.
“If you do any other business where you get foreign currency, they get benefits, whereas we don’t get anything at all. Last 40 years we have been struggling to get something but nothing happened,” he added.
He said that although they discussed their issues with the Customs and Sri Lanka Ports Authority, they were unable to get help.
Secretary J.M. Faiz spelled out some of the issues faced by them such as the time-consuming long procedures, where they have to go to many places to get the approval for the delivery.
“To pass the papers we have to go to many places. One or two places are enough. Now the world is very fast. If I go to seven places then I can’t catch the vessel. They don’t wait here. Every minute is money for them. If they wait here for one hour, they have to pay wages, waste oil. So they want to minimise their expenditure,” he said.
He said that still the authorities use expired documents.
“In Singapore everything is done on computer. Only the security check is done” he said.
He noted another challenge faced by them is the low price of the supplies of the neighbouring countries compared to them.
“Our competitor Singapore for a day does 300 ships. We do 10-15 ships. Singapore is smaller than Colombo but they do a lot of ships,” he noted.
Faiz also said that if a good economist identifies the potential of this industry, the industry could reach great heights.
He added that during the war, a single complaint was not made about ship handling as no harmful act was done by them to the city or the port. Yet, he said that they never got solutions for any of their problems.
Summarising about the history of the association, former Mayor of Colombo and Past Chairman of the association, Hussain Mohamed noted that this is one of the oldest professions in Sri Lanka expanding up to British/Dutch period, where people have been supplying vegetables and fruits to vessels.
He noted the first vegetable market in Colombo, called ‘Nuwara market’, was initiated by the association.
Further, it was noted that the President of International Ship Suppliers’ Association (ISSA) Abdul Hameed Hajah also would be present for the 40th anniversary celebration at Hotel Galadari.