By Nishel Fernando
The Sri Lanka Port Authority (SLPA) has deferred the proposed hike in port tariffs until December, to support the economy in the aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks, SLPA Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka told Mirror Business.
“We will make a decision in December whether to increase port tariff or not; until then, the tariff structure prior to December 31, 2018 would be in place,” he said.
He noted that the committee, which was appointed to look into the issue on the request of industry stakeholders, has recommended the SLPA to postpone the tariff hike.
The SLPA substantially raised its port charges and other related tariffs effective from January 1, 2019, based on a Cabinet decision taken during the 51-day government.
However, following the industry objections, the tariff hike, which was in effect for about a month, was suspended by the SLPA for a period of three months.
They also urged the government to refund the excess tariffs they already paid during the period from January 1, 2019 to February 7, 2019, where the new tariffs were implemented. Ratnayaka remarked that the SLPA would be looking into refunding these payments in near future.
It was alleged that the upward tariff revision of port services was implemented without consulting exporters, importers and other relevant stakeholders.
The industry stakeholders also stressed the need to address the existing inefficiencies in port operations, in order to make Sri Lanka more competitive and the disruption to the existing contracts, before moving ahead with an upward tariff revision.
In a recent statement, Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board also warned that the proposed tariff hike could hamper the country’s export targets and the current export growth momentum, while potentially jeopardising the implementation of the key export strategies such as the National Export Strategy, which are vital in transforming the country’s economy to an export-driven economy.