By Lahiru Pothmulla
The Cabinet has given approval to develop Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port as a harbour to transit vehicles to African, the Middle Eastern (ME) and European countries with the input of private investors, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Vice Chairman Capt. Asitha Wijesekera said.
Addressing the 49th Annual General Meeting of the Ceylon Association of Ships Agents (CASA), Wijesekera said a Ro-Ro terminal would be developed to facilitate vehicle transit from the port and Expression of Interests (EOI) would be called from prospective investors at the end of this month.
“There is a strong demand from major Ro-Ro vessel operators for vehicle transit facilities to transport vehicles via the Hambantota Port,” he said.
He said the oil tank farm facilities provided by the port had incurred a loss of Rs.1 billion within the first six months of operations and therefore, the new administration had opted for the assistance of private international bunker players with a strong customer base.
“The move to create a bunkering harbour will lead to the liberation of bunkering facilities in the island. We think this is the way forward for the statues of a bunkering harbour,” he said.
Commenting on the Maritime Advisory Board appointed by the new administration with the representatives of the CASA, SLPA, Ceylon Shipping Corporation and maritime administration, Wijesekera said the board has played a critical role in helping the Aviation and Shipping Ministry in the short span of time since it was appointed.
He said some of the recommendations and proposals pitched by the board had already been adopted in policy initiatives while some are being studied carefully before implementation.
Meanwhile, he announced that the Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) would be the first terminal of the Colombo Port to receive ISO 9001:2008 quality certificate and said with the East Terminal being cleared for EOIs, soon there will be international partners.
Wijesekera noted that they have the Customs already on board for a mega logistic centre at the port. He also revealed that the SLPA was developing an app for mobile devices allowing online payments and to track and deliver consignments in a smooth manner.
The CASA AGM elected Capt. Ajith Peiris as the Chairman for the second year who rejected the reports that shipping in the island was not liberalized adding any shipping service provider can board in any port of Sri Lanka.
“We have liberalized shipping agency industry up to 40 percent of foreign principles,” he said.