The government called international and local stakeholders to advice on the formation of a national maritime policy to make Sri Lanka a maritime hub.
“The ministry will need the support and the guidance of international as well as local stakeholders to give us ideas, plans and proposals to put a national policy framework for shipping,” Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Colombo International Maritime Conference, he said that the ministry and the Cabinet would study urgent reforms that are needed in the sector to increase the business environment of ports across the country.
“We all know that Sri Lanka has some of the best infrastructure in South Asia with deep draught ports. Combined this with our maritime geography I strongly believe that we can develop the maritime economy into a hub status with the help of the stakeholders of the industry,” he added.
He noted that the sector, which currently contributes just 3 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), should increase to 10 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, who was also present, said that the government would reform and modernize legislation in the coming months to fit in with the promised social market economic model and attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) required to fund projects.
“As a region it is said that the 21st century belongs to Asia. Sri Lanka now has its greatest opportunity to be a beneficiary of Asia’s economic prosperity. The development of the maritime economy is a key development strategy that the government would focus on,” he said.
Jayasuriya outlined that improving the current business by increasing port calls of main liners and cruise ships, expanding bulk and roll-on/roll-off shipping in Hambantota and Trincomalee, ship bunkering and ship making and repair services would be augmented by new services.
“New areas such as ship financing, ship registering, maritime education, arbitration are other areas the country needs to invest and attract global players to be present like in some of the regional hubs in Asia and Middle East. This would be the true ingredients to make a maritime hub,” he said.
He reiterated that the government, business leaders, civil society leaders and union leaders must work together to bring ideas to fruition.
“Just as the government has decided to work together for two years at the inception to put out national policies into effect, the private sector too needs to think out of the box to bring in the best to the country putting aside personal interests and work side by side with the government,” he added.