China Shipping Container Lines Co., Ltd (CSCL), the seventh largest shipping line in the world, is eyeing aggressive expansion into Sri Lanka as a regional hub, helped by its local shipping agent, the Ceyline group.
“They have been expanding, so they are promoting Colombo as a hub for the Indian subcontinent,” Ceyline Group Chairman Hemantha Jayanetti said.
He was speaking after the CSCL Vancouver, currently running the CSCL WAX (West Africa Express) line, made its maiden call and the first of a regular weekly schedule by CSCL ships on Colombo.
“Earlier, CSCL port calls were intermittent. They came only when there was some cargo… (but) we’ll have four weekly port calls from different CSCL lines in the near future,” he said.
CSCL had been using Port Klang in Malaysia as its trans-shipment point for the subcontinent in the past but Sri Lanka’s location requires little divergence and greater flexibility. He further added that since around 70 percent of Colombo Port’s cargo is trans-shipped and no other port in the subcontinent could handle the big ships in the range of 20,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), Sri Lanka is also qualified with experience and infrastructure.
Jayanetti said that dialogues have already been started with CSCL ship agents in the region to forward their cargo to Colombo.
Ceyline Group Director Mevan Peiris said that in addition to the agreement on the WAX line, negotiations are underway for port calls from the CSCL Mediterranean and South American lines, which would likely commence in the coming months and the European line, which is expected to start calling in Colombo from next year.
“A lot of Sri Lanka’s trade is with Europe, so we really need to get it… and hope to get even more ships to call through Colombo,” Jayanetti added.
He said that Sri Lanka becoming CSCL’s hub would allow more Sri Lankans to be employed on their vessels.
“Shipping lines will be more motivated to employ Sri Lankans because it’s easier to repatriate them in Colombo between voyages,” he said. Ceyline Group Managing Director Ajith Peiris said that Ceyline is uniquely positioned in this aspect, as they operate the CINEC Maritime Campus in partnership with Aitken Spence Shipping.
“Ceyline is the largest maritime employer of Sri Lankans on ships and on shore,” he claimed.
Further, he added that the increasing frequency of ship calls will lower the freight cost.
“We will not only help the port but the traders as well,” he said.
Ceyline has been in operation for over 30 years and in addition to services spanning the entire spectrum of the maritime sector, it has diversified into tourism, healthcare, and software development.