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Expert calls for major reforms to maritime policy

29 January 2015 03:50 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Major reforms for the country’s maritime policy were called for to take advantage of its geographical location and new portrelated infrastructure, during the 12th P.B. Karandawela Memorial Lecture organised by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) this week. “The maritime industry is at a critical juncture.

Mangala Yapa
Perhaps it is time, like in the 1970s, to do some strategic thinking like Mr. Karandawela. The country needs its next maritime policy to take the industry forward,” Ceylon Chamber of Commerce CEO/Secretary General Mangala Yapa, who was delivering the lecture, said.Yapa, the former Managing Director/ CEO of Ceylon Dockyard PLC, who is credit with turning around the company, hoped the new policy would be a publicprivate partnership instead of being purely state driven like in China, or industry driven like in South Korea.


He expressed that it was an inspired move by Karandawela to launch Colombo Dockyard PLC and Air Ceylon as limited companies during the Sirimavo Bandaranaike era of state domination, with the state then holding a significant share of the companies. “During the past government too, the industry was completely driven by the state. What we need is for all stakeholders, whether public or private, to create a shared national vision and objectives,” Yapa said.
The development of the Colombo South Harbour and the Hambantota Port by the previous regime drew in investments exceeding US $ 1.7 billion, while investments by the private sector’s Colombo Dockyard and China-based Colombo International Container Terminals Ltd amounted to less than US $ 550 million in the past 10 years.


He said that the new regime must create a requisite climate to attract private investment and that while it has given the freedom and opportunity for the industry stakeholders to talk, it must be willing to listen and implement suggestions as well.He said that the Marine Environment Protection Agency came under the land-based Environment Ministry under the previous regime, whereas it should have ideally been under the Ports and Shipping Ministry.


Further, he revealed that Sri Lankan legislation is compliant with only two of the 22 maritime conventions ratified by the International Maritime Organisation of the United Nations.“It is not so difficult to enact. We have the English Law and Shipping Law, which cover most. What we need to do is to modify them here and there for an amended Merchant Shipping Act,” he said.


However, he said that discussions on it have to be restarted following the regime change and may have to be done again if changes occur following the 100-day programme and the upcoming parliamentary elections.Meanwhile, Yapa posed many pertinent questions, highlighting the possibilities available for the industry’s future.“We are now living in a time of global supply chains. Sri Lanka can import the designs, the raw materials and build a ship for a market which doesn’t exist here,” he said.


He added that services such as ship design, building and flag carrying, which were exclusive to Europe till the past century moved into East Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East, with China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and Dubai creating fortunes and Sri Lanka should look into opportunities as well, being in the crossroads of these regions.


He also said that fisheries, offshore gas and oil exploration, and cruise, sailing and diving-based tourism could also be included in the new policy platform.
“Sri Lanka has the world’s largest land-based and sea- based mammals maybe two hours apart. It is viable because marine tourism is the main business of the Maldives.We don’t need to do exactly what they did, maybe something different,” he said.


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe has expressed a keen interest in maritime tourism, calling for a long-felt need for establishing a cruise terminal in the Colombo Harbour to tap into the highly lucrative segment.Yapa said that the country should have further improvements in the human capital and organisational structures.Yapa asked whether Sri Lanka will be a gateway to Africa, the Gulf, Europe, South Asia, or a combination of all and that the policy should include and reflect all these factors as well.
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