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Colombo Port container throughput declines 4.7% in 2020

5 February 2021 09:15 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • SAGT, JCT record declines; CICT records marginal increase 
  • Impacted by COVID-19 related disruptions and slowing global trade

By Nishel Fernando
The container throughput at Port of Colombo declined by 4.7 percent year-on-year (YoY) to 6.85 million TEUs in 2020 due to pandemic-related effects, Sri Lanka’s Port Authority (SLPA) data showed. 

The Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) handled 2.88 million TEUs during the year, marginally up from 2.87 TEUs in 2019. It contributed to around 42 percent of container throughput of the Port in 2020, compared to 40 percent in 2019.

Meanwhile, SLPA-managed Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) handled 2.1 million TEUs in 2020.

The South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) handled 1.87 million TEUs in the period, with disruptions related to second COVID-19 wave taking a toll on the terminal operations. 

In the fourth quarter of last year, SAGT’s throughput suffered the highest decline among the three terminals, recording 14 percent YoY decline.

“Profitability at SAGT continued to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and by a change in the throughput mix due to continued import restrictions in place in the country,” the terminal operator noted.

The data showed transshipment volumes of the terminal increasing in the range of 86-90 percent from 80 percent, after import restrictions came into force towards the end of the first quarter of last year.

Meanwhile, East Container Terminal (ECT), which began operations towards the latter part of last year, handled around 40,000 TEUs in 2020.

Speaking to Mirror Business, SLPA Managing Director H. D. A. S. Premachandra remarked that setting a container throughput target for 2021 is difficult due to current volatile environment caused by COVID-19 pandemic.  He noted that almost every major port in the world is registering lower container throughput. 

As transshipments contribute to about 82 percent of Colombo Port’s container throughput with a significant contribution from India, he said the success of the vaccine drive would be crucial for the Port to return to its pre-COVID growth trajectory.  

According to latest data, India’s exports recorded 5.4 percent YoY growth in January 2021, driven by a record growth in vaccine exports, and imports also recorded 2 percent YoY growth in the month. Meanwhile, bulk cargo volumes (including liquid bulk) at Hambanthota Port grew by a record 145.6 percent YoY to 1.24 million tonnes in 2020.

The port also commenced its bunkering operations during the year, aiming to become a leading bunkering hub in the region.

In April 2019, China’s second largest oil and gas producer, Sinopec secured a tender to setup bunkering services at the Port.

Sri Lanka’s John Keells Holdings noted that the Port offers strong opportunities for private bunkering service providers with infrastructure in place for inland storage of petrochemicals and a pipeline to the Port.


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